Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a small annual plant of the parsley family, widely cultivated in the Mediterranean region of Europe and in India. Primary cultivation of cumin is in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa with India and Iran as the largest cumin exporters. The valued portion of the plant is the dried fruit called cumin seed, which is esteemed as a condiment. Cumin was known to the Egyptians 5,000 years ago and it was found in the pyramids. In ancient times cumin was a symbol of greed and meanness. Curiously, by the Middle Ages it was regarded as a symbol of faithfulness.
Aroma and flavour
The odour and flavour of cumin is derived largely from the essential oil, which contains cumaldehyde or cuminic aldehyde as the main constituent. Other ingredients of the oil are dihydrocuminaldehyde, dl-pinene, d--pinene, para-cymene, dipentene, and cuminyl alcohol. Synthetic cuminaldehyde is an adulterant to cumin oil and is very difficult to detect chemically. The dried seed of cumin has 2.5 to 5 percent essential oil on a dry weight basis and is obtained by steam distillation.
Various origin of Cumin Seeds
Iranian: Iranian cumin comes from the Khorasan province, and is mostly black seed cumin. While the United States historically imported its cumin supply mostly from Iran; ever since the Islamic Revolution, America has stopped importing cumin from the nation. It is also known as the caraway plant.
Indian: India produces and consumes the most cumin in the world, and is similar in taste and aroma to Iranian cumin. Indian cumin has an essential oil content, between 3 and 5 percent, and is brown in color.
Middle Eastern: Middle Eastern cumin, originating in Pakistan, Syria and Turkey, differs in flavor and aroma from Indian and Iranian cumin. It has an essential oil content between 3 and 5 percent.
White and Black Cumin: Aside from regional differences, cumin seeds come in two varieties: white and black.