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Cuminum cyminum

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Cuminum aegyptiacum
  • Cuminum hispanicum
  • Cuminum odorum Salisb.
  • Cuminum sativum
Phonetic Spelling
KUH-min-um SIM-in-um
Description

Cuminum cyminum, or Cumin, is an annual herb grown to harvest the cumin seed, which is commonly used as a spice in Asian, Mexican, Indian, and Middle Eastern recipes. Cumin is a member of the carrot, celery, and parsley family and is native to the Mediterranean. Seeds found in Syria have been dated back to the second millennium BC and there are many references to cumin in Biblical text of the Old and New Testaments. It was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonist. The Native American Tribe Apalachee, who historically lived in the Florida Panhandle, used the plant water for medicinal purposes. Today the plant is commercially grown in the Indian subcontinent, Northern Africa, Mexico, and Chile.

Cumin is photoautotroph, meaning it transforms light into chemical energy, and monocarpic, meaning the plant flowers, sets seeds, then dies. It is vulnerable to frost, and needs 120 days of frost free weather from planting to harvesting. Seeds need to be 36 to 41 degrees for emergence, with optimum temperatures of 68 to 86 degrees. Soaking seeds for 8 hours before planting helps in germination. Start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date, or start outside 1 to 2 weeks after the average last frost date. Plant a group of 4 seeds at a depth of 1/4", every 4 to 8 inches. Seeds should germinate in 7 to 14 days. Cumin does not transplant well. So, if starting in seed pots, use biodegradable pots and bury the entire pot. When seedlings are 2 inches tall, thin them to 1 plant every 4 to 8 inches.

Water the plants regularly, allowing soil to go almost dry between watering, then soak thoroughly. Harvest cumin by cutting stems containing clusters close to the ground after the flower clusters are dry and turn brown. Place clusters into a paper bag, hang upside down in a dark warm area, and let dry completely. After they are dry, thrash the paper bag to release the seeds. Alternately, rub the seed pods together to release the seed. Each plant only produces a few fruit and each fruit only contains one seed, so there needs to be a large crop to collect a useable amount of seed.

Diseases, Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

Aphids, fusarium wilt, alternaria blight, and powdery mildew cause problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#drought tolerant#frost tender#edible seeds#annual herb#edible spice
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#drought tolerant#frost tender#edible seeds#annual herb#edible spice
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cuminum
    Species:
    cyminum
    Family:
    Apiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The oil from cumin is used in fragrances, cosmetics, and essential oils. In some cultures, the cumin seed has been used medicinally as a carminative, sedative, stimulant, and an antispasmodic, as well as the plant water being used for medicinal purposes. The oil has also been used as an antibacterial agent. There is no modern scientific evidence that it is effective as a therapeutic. In ancient Egypt cumin seed was used as a preservative in mummification.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Mediterranean into India. Iraq to Afghanistan, upper Egypt.
    Distribution:
    North Africa, Mediterranean Region, Middle East, Central Asia, West Pakistan, North America. Has been found growing wild in Massachusetts.
    Wildlife Value:
    The cumin plant attracts beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and predatory wasps that prey on harmful insects on this plant and other plants around it.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    drought
    Edibility:
    The cumin seed is a popular spice used either whole or ground in flavoring in stews, bean dishes, sausages, pickles, cheese, and many other food dishes. It has a hot and aromatic flavor and is often used in curries. The essential oil obtained from the seed is used as flavoring as well.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Herb
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Gray/Silver
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Schizocarp
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit of the cumin plant is dry, conical shaped, less than 1/4 inch in length, and covered with minute hairs. The fruit does not split open when ripe. It contains a single seed that is harvested by hand and is then used as a spice. The seed is yellow-brown to gray, having eight ridges with oil canals.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Description:
    Small flowers sit on top of the stems forming umbels. Each umbel has 5 to 7 umbellets, or clusters, that make a canopy, giving it a fluffy appearance. Flowers have both male and female structures.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Filiform
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are divided into long narrow segments similar to fennel, but much smaller. Leaf color is deep green, sometimes turning black at the ends. The upper leaves have very short stalks and lower leaves have longer stalks.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are slender, 8 to 12 inches tall, 1 1/4 to 2 inches in diameter, branched into 2 or 3 subbranches, and glabrous. Branches reach similar heights, so it forms a uniform flat canopy of flowers.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Small Space
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Edible Garden
    Design Feature:
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Predatory Insects
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Heat