Aromatic jeera is a spice that is ubiquitous in Indian cooking.
Not only does it go in to the tempering for many daals and subzis, it is also an important ingredient in such diverse things as tamarind chutney,the delicious summer drink aam ka panna, as a flavoring in many raitas, and of course jal jeera, another very popular summer drink that takes it’s name from this spice.
This spice is used in both it’s seed form as well as ground in to a powder and is therefore sold in both forms too. But I feel that the latter is best made fresh each time some is needed; bottled jeera powder doesn’t pack half as much flavor, IMO.
So whenever a recipe calls for jeera powder, I usually lightly roast some cumin seeds (it is important not to brown the seeds too long/let them burn to black else this ruins the flavor) and then crush them with a rolling pin or in an electric mixer if the quantity is large enough. The resultant aroma is worth the extra effort !!
Cumin -scientific name Cuminum cyminum – is used in diverse cuisines, such as Mexican, Indian and Middle Eastern and belongs to the same plant family (Umbelliferae) as parsley, dill and caraway.
It is native to Egypt and has been cultivated since antiquity in Indian, China, and the Mediterranean region.
The Bible mentions it as a seasoning for soup and bread, and as a currency to pay tithes to priests while the Egyptians used it as an ingredient in the mummification of their pharaohs. In Europe in the Middle Ages, cumin gained popularity as a symbol of love and fidelity. People carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers took along a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives when they went to war !
Cumin has been traditionally used due to its cooling effect, and its’ ability to aid digestion. Research does indicate that cumin probably helps stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, compounds necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation.
Cumin may even have anti-carcinogenic properties, due to its’ potent free radical scavenging abilities as well as the ability to enhance the liver’s detoxification enzymes. In fact, these same properties make cumin an important aid to overall wellness.
A very good source of iron and manganese, cumin is highly regarded in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for it’s varied curative properties. It can apparently help treat skin problems such as boils, psoriasis, eczema and dry skin; it is believed to help purify the blood; to reduce superficial inflammation; to help control flatulence, stomach pain, diarrhoea, nausea; can help alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome; and is believed to be an antiseptic.
If you come across material – studies/scientific papers -that talk about the benefits of jeera , I’d love to hear about it.
The sources I referenced are: