Cumin | Black Cumin
Cumin - [Jeera (India), Cuminum cyminum]
Probably originating in southwestern Asia, this plant has been native
to the region from the eastern Mediterranean to eastern India since
prehistoric times. What we call "Cumin Seeds" is actually the dried fruit,
which contains the seeds. This is one of the most important spices in
Indian cuisine, generally combined 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon coriander
seed, but sometimes 1 to 1. It is also one of the most important spices
in North Africa, the Levant and Middle East. It is significant in
Europe as well, but often displaced by Caraway Seeds. In India it is
sometimes called White Cumin to differentiate it from Black Cumin.
The photo specimens were typically 0.188 inch long by 0.060 inch
wide (4.8 x 1.5 mm).
Black Cumin - [Kala Jeera, Shahi Jeera (India); Zireh Kuhi (Persia); Siyoh Dona (Tajiki), Bunium persicum alt? B. bulbocastanum]
Fruits of this plant (called "seeds") are used in the cuisines of
northern India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Persia - and are all but
unknown outside that region, though the plant grows wild as far as
southeastern Europe. It has a very different flavor and aroma than white
cumin, so the two are not interchangeable. The leaves can be used as is
parsley, and the roots cooked, said to taste like sweet chestnuts, but
only the fruits are available in North America. Caution:
This spice is not to be confused with Nigella, often also called
"Black Cumin". This is not an English translation error, nigella is
actually called "black cumin" in Bengal, where many of the early Indian
immigrants came from (most of Bengal is now Bangladesh). Visually, they
are easy to tell apart - nigella seeds are tiny and teardrop shaped, not
at all elongated. The photo specimens were typically 0.220 inch long by
0.020 wide (5.6 x 0.5 mm).
More on Parsleys
Dry Roasting: In the Indian cuisines, and to a lesser extent in Africa and the Middle East, cumin (and other) seeds are dry roasted in a metal pan until they are very fragrant and darkening just slightly. Keep shaking the pan for even heating and do not let them become hot enough to smoke.