Monday, November 30, 2009
Cumin, to me, smells like dirt. Soil, really. It smells like the earth. I'm sitting here, alternating between typing, and smelling ground cumin seeds. It smells like magic.
For years, whenever I was cooking at a friends kitchen, and they had one of those all in one spice racks, or if they were serious enough to have many different jars that they hand selected, I would always go for the cumin, and not because of any health benefits; I didn't know it had any. Cumin could of been as good for you as eating cardboard, I don't know, I just loved that smell. And I know I'm harping on it. And I know there are (potentially insane) people out there who don't like the smell of cumin.
Anyway. Cumin, aside from the smell, is incredibly good for you. Lemme tell you all about it.
i.) VITAMINS! Okay, well, here's the rub. Cumin, per volume, contains more iron than damn near anything, but you're not going to end up eating a ton of cumin, right? I mean, you could eat 10 grams of cumin, and come up with 50% of your iron needs, but I'm not sure there wouldn't be some different problems if you ate a bit over 1/6th of that bottle up there. Still though, cumin does contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc in decent quantity, as well as some B and potassium, and so even if you aren't going to look to cumin as your main source of these vitamins, they are going to help out.
ii.) DIGESTION! Well, first off, that smell, which is caused by cuminaldehyde, makes our mouths water, and that saliva is the first part of our digestion, breaking down some of the starches and fats we eat. The second part of cumin's magic is much more impressive: thanks to the thymol in these lil seeds, cumin has been shown to increase the production of pancreatic enzymes that help us digest food . And there's even more! Cumin is considered a carminative, which, before I can even explain what that is, I must comment that I am amazed that such a word exists. A carminative is a spice or an herb that either expels or prevents the formation of gas, which also helps with digestion. So there's cumin's three pronged helpful attack to get you all digested better.
iii.) CANCER! AGAIN! I think it'll be by about post 50 or so that I find myself completely bored with trying to tell you guys how to fight cancer. Cumin has the ability to take out free radicals, which, if I understand this correctly, are bad because of the negative way they affect and react with our dna, causing mutations and tumors. Aside from this awesomeness, research has shown to increase detoxifying agents in the liver, which also help for cancer fighter off ness. Okay, that sentence got away from me, but still. Cumin good fight cancer, okay?
iv.) Respiratory issues be gone! There are two ways that cumin helps you breathe, and I'm going to put them out there, then explain: essential oils and caffeine. Now, the essential oils in cumin (cuminaldehyde) are helpful disinfectants, and have been shown to be anti-inflammatory agents, as well as allegedly (this is traditional medicine, not science) being helpful in drying up excess mucus. Pair that with caffeine, which has been shown to be helpful with oxygen intake and stimulating the respiratory system, and you have a pretty good combination. My only problem with this, is that for the life of me, I can't find out how much caffeine is in cumin. Do you have to eat excessive amounts to get caffeine stimulation? Is it marginal and then just a foot note, and not really something worth writing home about? I can't seem to find out. Someone can feel free to out-research me, and we'll see what's what.
v.) DIABETES! So I was just reading some early studies about the way that cumin effects diabetes, and I promise you this, I tried, really, really, really hard to understand them. But after looking up every big word, and then looking up every big word in the definitions of the previous big words, I could only figure out that it SEEMED like cumin would be a helpful anti-diabetic agent, lowering sucrose levels in lab rats. Early research, but promising.
WHAT TO DO WITH CUMIN:
Aside from sitting in a room, smelling ground Cumin in a jar, there's plenty of fine things to do with cumin. I'm a bigger fan of the ground stuff than the actual seeds, just because sometimes the seeds add a consistency I'm not in the mood for, and if you're only going to have one or the other, the ground is more versatile. I personally put cumin in nearly everything, as I'm madly in love with it, obviously. It's generally used for Indian dishes, curry and the like, or Mediterranean dishes, in rice or stews, soups. A lot of people use it in chili, or when making spanish dishes. Alicia wanted me to point out that it's used a lot in Mexican Flavor Packet Thingies, which are really an American thing more than anything else, but cumin is indeed behind some amazing tex-mex cooking. Really, anything you want to be savory, earthy, spicy, it's perfect for. Ah! I'm so in love. I literally want to make all of that, just thinking about it. And so, since I can't find any contraindications, side effects, it seems fine for people with babies in them and whatnot, here's what I'm going to do:
I'm going to go get a pot. I'm going to put rice, water, olive oil, CUMIN, TURMERIC, and black pepper in it, and heat it, till it's magic. Then I'm going to get a pan: butter, fresh wild chanterelle mushrooms, garlic, green onions, more CUMIN, TURMERIC, a habanero, and I'm going to fry it up until it's magic. Then I'm going to put it all together, and I'm gonna be in heaven. I totally recommend you do the same.