Now that we've covered a wide variety of herbs in this series, let's shift over to the first of our spice entries: cumin.
I decided to start this series with cumin because it's my personal pick for most underrated spice. Garlic and onion are more widely used, turmeric is more trendy and chili powder is more potent, but cumin is the secret spice (literally) in many of your favorite styles of cuisine.
As with many spices, cumin comes from a seed and can be used either whole or ground. These seeds of the cumin plant - a close relative of parsley - look like narrowed sunflower seeds. In its ground form, cumin is a sandy brown color, sometimes with a touch of yellow-orange hue.
Cumin has been in use since at least 2000 BC and was used to help preserve bodies for mummification in ancient Egypt. Ancient Greeks and Romans kept a container of cumin on their dinner tables, a practice that remains common in Morocco today. It's been a part of Indian cuisine throughout history, particularly as one of the primary ingredients in curry powder. You're even likely to find cumin seeds as a part of common birdseed mixes.
Nutritionally, cumin is consumed in relatively small amounts so its contributions for most vitamins and minerals aren't very substantial. That being said, it does contain meaningful amounts of iron and manganese.
The flavor of cumin is often described as earthy or warm. It's a great complement more potently flavored spices, like chili powder, chipotle or cayenne. It can also play a starring role as the primary flavor for chicken breast. Cumin's warm, earthy flavors make it a perfect addition to stews and soups as well. As mentioned, Indian food wouldn't taste the same without a healthy dose of cumin, either. And don't forget about the delicious flavors of Moroccan cooking.
However you decide to wield it, cumin is an excellent ingredient to keep handy in the kitchen. I hope you find it to be as delicious and versatile as this dietitian has!