Origin, Distribution and Composition
Cumin is an annual herb, with a smooth surface and long, slender root. It
grows up to a height of 35 to 45 cm. It produces a stem with many branches
which bear long, finely divided, deep green leaves and small flowers,
white or rose in color. The plant has aromatic seed-like fruit, commonly
known as cumin seed. It is oval-shaped, approximately 6 mm long and light
yellowish-brown in color. It has a peculiar, strong and heavy odor. The
dried seeds form an essential ingredient of curry powder.
Cumin is a native of Egypt, Syria, Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean
region. It was one of the commonest spices during the Middle Ages. It is
now grown in south-eastern Europe, north Africa, India and China.
An analysis of cumin seeds shows them to consist of moisture 6.2 per cent,
protein 17.7 per cent, fat 23.8 per cent, crude fiber 9.1 per cent,
carbohydrates 35.5 per cent and mineral matter 7.7 per cent per 100 grams.
Their mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium,
potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins C and A. Their calorific
value is 460.
The dried fruit is crushed and subjected to
fractional or steam distillation to yield a valuable volatile oil
pale-yellow in color, which turns dark on keeping. The cumin aldehyde
present in the volatile oil is readily converted artificially into thymol.