Cumin/cummin, cumin seed
(Cuminum cyminum – Family Umbelliferae)
Cumin is a dried, seed-like fruit that comes from a small annual plant of the parsley family. Indigenous to the upper regions of the Nile, cumin was cultivated very early in history in Arabia, India, China, and the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Pliny calls it the best appetizer of all the condiments. He also wrote that the Ethiopian and African varieties were superior. During the Middle Ages, cumin was one of the species most commonly used, and is mentioned as such in writings from Normandy in 716. Cumin was among the merchandise taxed in the City of London in 1419. Several herbals of the 16th and 17th centuries record its cultivation in England in 1594. However, cumin was later eclipsed by caraway seeds. However, elsewhere in Europe, cumin is a favourite in pickles, cheeses, cakes, and breads. Cumin seeds, and their essential oils, are used medicinally as an aid to stimulate gastric juices, increase appetite, and relieve flatulence. Traditionally, it has often been used to increase milk secretions in nursing mothers. There is an uncommon variety of true cumin whose seeds are black or near-black (see Black Cumin).