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Cumin Seeds



Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The cumin plant grows to 30–50 cm (1–2 ft) tall and is harvested by hand.

It is an herbaceous annual plant, with a slender branched stem 20–30 cm tall. The leaves are 5–10 cm long, pinnate or bipinnate, thread-like leaflets. The flowers are small, white or pink, and borne in umbels. The fruit is a lateral fusiform or ovoid achene 4–5 mm long, containing a single seed. Cumin seeds are similar to fennel and anise seeds in appearance, but are smaller and darker in color.

Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color, like other members of the Umbelliferae family such as caraway, parsley and dill.


Cumin has been in use since ancient times. Seeds, excavated at the Syrian site Tell ed-Der, have been dated to the second millennium BC. They have also been reported from several New Kingdom levels of ancient Egyptian archaeological sites.[4]

Originally cultivated in Iran and Mediterranean region, cumin is mentioned in the Bible in both the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:27) and the New Testament (Matthew 23:23). It was also known in ancient Greece and Rome. The Greeks kept cumin at the dining table in its own container (much as pepper is frequently kept today), and this practice continues in Morocco. Cumin fell out of favour in Europe except in Spain and Malta during the Middle Ages. It was introduced to the Americas by Spanish colonists.

Since returned to favour in parts of Europe, today it is mostly grown in Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, India, Syria, Mexico, and Chile.


Today, cumin is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper.[5][unreliable source?] Cumin seeds are used as a spice for their distinctive aroma, popular in Indian, Pakistani, North African, Middle Eastern, Sri Lankan, Cuban, Northern Mexican cuisines, and the Western Chinese cuisines of Sichuan and Xinjiang. Cumin can be found in some Dutch cheeses like Leyden cheese, and in some traditional breads from France. It is also commonly used in traditional Brazilian cuisine. Cumin can be an ingredient in (often Texan or Mexican-style) Chili powder, and is found in achiote blends, adobos, sofrito, garam masala, curry powder, and bahaarat.

Cumin can be used to season many dishes, either ground or as whole seeds, as it draws out their natural sweetnesses. It is traditionally added to chili, curries, and other Middle-Eastern, Indian, Cuban and Tex-Mex foods. Cumin has also been used on meat in addition to other common seasonings. Contrary to popular belief in the US, the spice is not very common in Mexican cuisine. However, the spice is a familiar taste in Tex-Mex dishes. It is extensively used in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. Cumin is typically used in Mediterranean cooking from Spanish, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It helps to add an earthy and warming feeling to cooking making it a staple in certain stews and soups as well.



Cumin is said to help in treatment of the common cold, when added to hot milk and consumed. In South Asia, cumin tea (dry seeds boiled in hot water) is used to distinguish false labour (due to gas) from real labour.

In Sri Lanka, toasting cumin seeds and then boiling them in water makes a tea used to soothe acute stomach problems.



Nutritional value

Cumin seeds

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Energy 370 kcal   1570 kJ



- Sugars  2.25 g


- Dietary fiber  10.5 g  




- saturated  1.535 g






Vitamin A equiv.  64 μg 


Riboflavin (Vit. B2)  0.327 mg  


Niacin (Vit. B3)  4.579 mg  


Vitamin B6  0.435 mg


Folate (Vit. B9)  10 μg 


Vitamin B12  0 μg  


Vitamin C  7.7 mg


Vitamin E  3.33 mg


Vitamin K  5.4 μg


Calcium  931 mg


Iron  66.36 mg


Magnesium  366 mg


Phosphorus  499 mg


Potassium  1788 mg  


Sodium  168 mg


Zinc  4.8 mg



Cumin seeds contain a relatively large percentage amount of iron. However, unless one would eat about 15 grams (1/2 oz) per day, cumin is not likely to be a significant dietary source of iron.

Black Cumin seeds

Cumin is hotter to the taste, lighter in color, and larger than caraway (Carum carvi), another umbelliferous spice that is sometimes confused with it. Many European languages do not distinguish clearly between the two. For example, in Czech caraway is called 'kmín' while cumin is called 'římský kmín' or "Roman caraway". The distinction is practically the same in Hungarian ("kömény" for caraway and "római kömény" [Roman caraway] for cumin). In Polish the difference is even less significant- caraway is 'kminek' and cumin is 'kmin rzymski', which is even more confusing as 'kminek' is a diminutive of 'kmin' (notice the -ek suffix, as in 'kot' - a cat and 'kotek' - a small cat). In Swedish, caraway is called "kummin" while cumin is "spiskummin", from the Swedish word "spisa", to eat, while in German "Kümmel" stands for caraway and "Kreuzkümmel" denotes cumin. Some older cookbooks erroneously name ground coriander as the same spice as a ground cumin.