To this day, the first question that comes to mind when I hear “cumin” (jeera), is seeds or powder? As a teenager helping her mum in the kitchen, when said pass the jeera, I had no idea if I should reach for the seeds, the untoasted powder or the toasted powder. How could one word mean three different variations of one spice? To make matters easier, no jar was ever labeled, nor did it have a dedicated jar. Years of being lost in translation and with observation, I eventually realized the answer depended on where we were in the cooking process. Nowadays when I hear cumin, I not only silently ask seeds or powder, I also say, a cooling, carminative spice that kindles the digestive fire.
Like cinnamon and black pepper, cumin is an aromatic spice that too is pungent in taste. While also being bitter. Meaning cumin is rich in the elements of fire, air and also earth. Hence, the earthy flavor, which intensifies when toasted. A spice of two tastes, pungent and bitter, cumin is abundant in the air element. Giving it the light and dry qualities. Used to spice of foods in many countries around the globe, cumin is recognized in Ayurveda as one that kindles the digestive fire, digests ama, or toxins, redirects the flow of vata downwards helping support elimination, alleviates intestinal spasms, and can help with clearing mucus and congestion. As a result, aiding with the absorption of nutrients.
In general, cumin is a tri-doshic herb, but in large quantities, it can increase pitta dosha. As it’s post-digestive effect or virya is pungent, meaning heating. When combined with coriander and or fennel, cumin’s heat becomes better balanced. As far as flavor goes, cumin’s earthiness partners well with an array of herbs and spices. From oregano to saffron. Use it in veggie stir-frys, soup, stews, curry, grains, meat rubs, or to flavor yogurt. The broad range of dishes to cuisines combined with its digestive benefits is why this spice is a pantry staple, no matter what season. Importantly, it’s delicious! No wonder we see it in recipes spanning from the northern to the southern hemispheres.
THE BENEFITS OF CUMIN
- Improves digestion
- Digest toxins
- Helps absorb nutrients
- Prevents bloating, gas, belching, acidity
- Helps with nausea
- Mild abdomen pain reliever for cramps
- Nourishes rasa dhatu aka plasma. Nourishing this dhatu is said to reduce uterine inflammation and pain
- Nourishes rakta aka blood and mamsa aka muscle tissues
- Good for the digestive and respiratory channels
HOW DO I COOK WITH CUMIN?
- Add about 1/2 to 1 tsp to warm oil, let it slight toast prior to adding a veggie of your choice.
- Infuse the seeds in warm oil, let toast and drizzle over your favorite steamed veggie, soup, grain or salad dressing
- Dry roast 1 tsp of cumin and mix it in with a cup of yogurt, salt, and cucumber to make raita.
- Blend toasted cumin powder with crushed oregano and salt to make a rub for chicken or meats
- Add a heaping teaspoon of toasted cumin powder to your favorite soup or stew and let simmer for at least 20 minutes
- Mix toasted cumin powder with some olive oil, lemon, and salt. Toss it over your favorite salad
Taste/Energy/Post-Digestive Effect: Pungent.Bitter/Cooling/Pungent