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Caraway and cumins.

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Exotic seed spices, and a quiz.

Caraway is kummin in Swedish and kumina in Finnish. The various cumins are all called something-something caraway, locally, so I tend to lump the lot under the same heading. Like this:

There's plain caraway, Carum carvi, which I grow in my garden, partly for the leaf (nice culinary herb), partly for the seed (nice spicy seed). About 85 % of the world's caraway is grown up here in Finland; it gets very strong during our long summer days.

And there's cumin, Cuminum cyminum, called jeera, which I've had in my spice shelf for years. It's juustokumina (cheese caraway) in Finnish and spiskummin (stove caraway) in Swedish.

But in addition to those there's other cumins, and I got them all, I think, a couple weeks ago when I went on a stroll through our local ethnofood stores.

There's black jeera (or black cumin), Bunium persicum, which has a minty scent and a weird strong taste to it, and which Gernot Katzer says to fry or cook for a better aroma.

There's ajwain, Carum copticum (= Trachyspermum ammi), with an earthy scent and a very peppery taste. It's koptinkumina in Finnish (Coptic caraway) and ajovan in Swedish.

There's black seed, Nigella sativa, which is also (falsely) called black cumin, and which is black caraway in Finnish (mustakumina) and Swedish (svartkummin).
I quite like the seeds of all the Nigellas; if you've grown some shake out a few seeds from the decorative seedpod and taste'em, they're good, and they're all different. They're not umbellifers; the rest of the plants mentioned here are.


Yawn, you say, how very interesting - not. Oh well, perhaps this will wake you up?
Photo: Dried spices. Pic: Quiz: how many of these seeds do you know?
Seeds included are

  • fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  • caraway, Carum carvi
  • black cumin or black jeera, Bunium persicum
  • jeera or cumin, Cuminum cyminum
  • ajwain, Carum copticum
  • black seed or black cumin, Nigella sativa
  • coriander, Coriandrum sativum

    Photo: Dried spices 1. Pic: Quiz: solution.

    How many did you get right?

  • Less than 2: you're no chef.
  • 2-4: now you're cooking.
  • More than 4: excellent!
  • --

    Most if not all edible spicy umbellifer seeds are very good for gas and that strange green-faced feeling you get when you overeat bad fats. That's caraway, cumin, black cumin, anise, fennel, coriander, green sweet cicely seed -- and so on and so forth -- are very good for mild to medium-strong gut cramps and gas. Or for mild to medium-strong menstrual cramps.

    You can even use the less-than-tasty seeds of the Angelicas (yech!). That, too, works for gut cramps and gas, even though it's usually used for menstrual cramps. I use recently dried root of Angelica for those killer cramps, though, not the seed.

    One thing to remember when picking umbellifer seeds in the wild: you have to be sure you know the plant you're picking seeds off, taking leaves off, or digging roots of. There's deadlies in the family.