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Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a plant and a spice with a distinctive aroma, popular in Mexican, North African, Middle Eastern, western Chinese and Indian cuisine. It belongs to the family Apiaceae, which is popularly called the carrot family.
The name cumin is a distortion of the Persian city Kerman, where most of ancient Persia's cumin was produced. For the Persians the expression carrying "cumin to Kerman" means: "to carry coal to Newcastle". Kerman, locally called Kermun, became Kumun and then cumin in the European languages.
In India, cumin is known as jeera or geera.
Cumin fruits have a distinctive bitter flavor and strong, warm aroma due to their abundant essential oil content. Its main constituent and important aroma compound is cuminaldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde). Important aroma compounds of toasted cumin are the substituted pyrazines, 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine. Their smell can also be detected in the eater's sweat even after consuming only small amounts.
Today, cumin is identified with Indian cuisine and Mexican cuisine. It is used as an ingredient of curry powder. Cumin can be found in some Dutch cheeses, and in some traditional breads from France. In herbal medicine, cumin is classified as stimulant, carminative, and antimicrobial.
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