A bright little annual for hot dry areas. Cumin loves the heat and it is very drought tolerant, it prefers sandy soil but is not fussy as long as it is well drained. Growing only to about 12 inches in height the bright white or pink flowers bloom in June/July and are followed by aromatic seeds. Idea for hot dry areas where little else grows.
Cumin is a delicate annual plant with fine feathery foliage. It rarely grows more than 12 inches in height. The leaves are fine deeply cut giving it a fluffy feather appearance. Lower leaves have long leaf stalks but they tend to become shorter and shorter as they rise up the stem. Leaves range from 2-4 inches in length (5-10cm) and are considered pinnate or bipinnate they are dark green to blue green in color and tend to turn back at the ends. The stems arise in mid spring and begin to branch almost at ground level, these can grow from 6-14 inches tall and in June and July the flowers appear. These are small white or pink and carried small stalked compound umbels with only four to six rays, each of which are only about 1/3 inch long. The seeds are just over ¼ inch long oblong in shape with a slightly thicker middle section and compressed tips and have a very distinctive odor and taste.
Cumin likes a hot climate but it will grow in more northern climates as long as there is enough heat and sunshine. However it needs quite a while to develop so for higher zone (5 and above) it is recommended that the seed be started indoors in late winter and grown to larger plants for transplanting out when the temperatures become warm enough. Indoor seeding needs to be done in a warm environment and seedlings will need to be kept warm. It can take up to two weeks for cumin seeds to germinate at around 68°F (20°C).
It normally takes four months to develop the plant enough to create good seed, so don't plant directly outside unless there is enough time for the plant to develop.
In warmer areas the seeds can be sown directly in the ground, water lightly until the seedlings germinate then keep the weeds down until they have developed enough to take care of themselves. For continuous supply of seeds sow at intervals throughout the season just ensuring that plants have long enough to fully develop seeds.
Cumin plants tend to bend over as they seeds develop so planting them in clumps rather than rows ensures that the plants can support each other and not all turn into the ground.
Location and Care.
Cumin likes a hot climate with temperatures around 86°F (30°C) and well drained soil. It prefers sandy soil but will grow in most soil types but they must be well drained. It needs a sunny position that will receive as much sunshine as possible. It needs little water once established and is very drought tolerant. Needs very little extra attention. For more northern zone pick a south facing location that is sheltered to allow for the heat to build up as much as possible. In cooler locations adding a sheet of glass over the area to focus more heat or using a cold frame can be helpful, since the plants don't grow very tall they can usually be contained in a small frame.
In more southern areas ensure that the area is well drained as cumin does not like a damp climate. Pick a location where the breeze will flush away any humidity build up.
If growing cumin for seed harvest ensure you sow a lot. Plants do not produce a great number of seeds each and it will take many plant to produce enough for most culinary endeavors.
Plant in clumps rather than rows so plants can support each other and heads will not bend over and touch the ground getting the seeds dirty.
Companion Planting: The flowers of cumin - and other plants with the same flower type - are always considered good companion plants. The flowers attract many beneficial insects especially parasitic wasps and predatory flies, which then will hunt insect pests on nearby crops. Cumin is an excellent companion for everything in the cabbage family as well as beets, cucumbers and potatoes.
Seed pods turn brown when they are ripe. Once dry they will spill their seeds onto the ground so a careful watch is needed to time harvesting when the pods are just brown but before they have split open. Not all the seeds are going to ripen at the same time so you have a choice of harvesting the ripe brown seeds by snipping them off with scissors or floral snips and leaving the rest to ripen or judging when the most seed has ripened and harvesting the whole plant and drying some of the seed yourself. Very green seed will not ripen well once picked.
If harvesting the whole plant cut stems near the ground and immediately turn upside down in harvesting container to ensure no seed is lost. Stems should be cut close to the ground. Once harvested the stems can be bunched together and placed in paper bags seed heads down then hung up to dry the remaining seeds which can then fall into the bag.
Seed can also be dried on a rack or dehydrator if desired.
Cumin is highly prized spice in many dishes from Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish cookery. It is used in most curry powders and chili powders. It is used to flavor grilled meat especially lamb and chicken dishes as well as soups and stews, sausages, pickles, cheeses, liqueurs and rice and bean dishes. It can also be added to plain rice to give it an extra bite as well as bean dished. In Mexico it is an essential ingredient in chili con carne, enchiladas with chili sauce and hot tamales. In India it is used to make an appetizing Indian drink, zeera pani is made from cumin and tamarind water. Oil of cumin is used in fragrances.
Cumin has a very strong stimulant effect and is used by herbalists to treat many kinds of digestive disorders including colic, stomach upset and flatulence (gas) and pains in the abdomen from sluggish digestion. It is also used to treat headaches and topically to treat some skin disorders.
Its principal employment is in veterinary medicine. Bay-salt and Cumin-seeds mixed, is a universal remedy for the diseases of pigeons, especially scabby backs and breasts.
Other Names: White Cumin, Cumin Blanc, Anise Acre, Cumin Acre, Cummin, Sweet Cumin, Cumin du Maroc, Faux Anis, Kreuzkümmel, Kummel, Mutterkümmel, Römischer Kümmel, Romische Kümmel, Weißer Kreuzkümmel, Cumino, Cumino Bianco, Comino, Comino Blanco, Cuminum, jeera, jeraka, jira, zeera, zira,