In my opinion, I find that cumin is one of the most aromatic spices on the planet with its earthy, pungent aroma and hints of sweet, lemony-pine scent. The seeds have a strong and slightly bitter flavor, but when they are toasted in hot oil or a dry pan, the bitterness and strong pungency gives way to a smooth nutty flavor. No wonder it is one of the most widely used spices, especially when creating curry dishes or for making hummus.
The black cumin,also called kala jeera, is a relative of the brown cumin, but produces much smaller seeds that are thinner and less pungent. Actually, they are just a darker version of the brown cumin seeds, yet the difference between the two is not only the color but in the flavor as well. The black seeds are more reminiscent of fennel with a sweeter lemony caraway flavor.
Black cumin is not as widely used around the world in cooking as the brown seeds. They are more prevalent in eastern Indian, North African and Middle Eastern cuisine. These regions use the black seeds to make curries, breads and chutneys. Oftentimes, the black cumin seeds get confused with Nigella sativa, because of the color and size of the seed, but they are totally different. The Nigella seeds do have a similar pungent flavor as the black cumin, but are more along the tones of fennel, coriander and nutmeg and they are mostly used for making liqueurs and confectionery.
Even though the brown cumin is mostly associated with North African and Indian cooking, the seeds are also commonly used in Mexican and Mediterranean food. Some other unique ways to use cumin would be to add flavor to legumes, grains, root vegetables, and just about any type of meat, as well as breads.
If you buy whole cumin seeds, use only the amount you need before grinding them, and remember to store the unused seeds in an airtight container.
We have whole cumin seeds and freshly ground cumin powder available, so put on your chefs hat and try experimenting with other spices and herbs using cumin to create some extraordinary recipes. For maximizing the flavor of cumin, you can roast the whole seeds at home using an ordinary frying pan.
I'd like to share this amazing split pea soup recipe using our whole cumin seeds: