Southwestern American food, Cuban dishes and Indian and Pakistani fare all feature unique spices that separate them from other cultural foods. One spice common throughout these dishes is the Middle Eastern spice cumin. A seed from the plant Cuminum cyminum, cumin has been used by chefs since ancient Roman times. Cumin comes from Iran, India, and the Middle East region, and the two major types of cumin seeds are white and black.
Iranian cumin comes from the Khorasan province, and is mostly black seed cumin. While the United States historically imported its cumin supply mostly from Iran; ever since the Islamic Revolution, America has stopped importing cumin from the nation. It is also known as the caraway plant.
India produces and consumes the most cumin in the world, and is similar in taste and aroma to Iranian cumin. Indian cumin has an essential oil content, between 3 and 5 percent, and is brown in color.
Middle Eastern cumin, originating in Pakistan, Syria and Turkey, differs in flavor and aroma from Indian and Iranian cumin. It has an essential oil content between 3 and 5 percent.
White and Black Cumin
Aside from regional differences, cumin seeds come in two varieties: white and black. Most cuisines use white cumin seeds, but black cumin seeds are found in Persian dishes and are sweeter in aroma.