Delicate, slender and rather pretty, Cumin cyminum L. is an annual herb of the parsley family, Umbelliferae. Gowing up to a height of 20-60 cm, this herb has tapered roots, erect stalk, very finely divided green leaves and white or rose colored small flowers. Pale green to golden-brown in color, the dried cumin fruit (seed) is about 5-6 mm long, uniformly elliptical, deeply furrowed and resembles caraway; each of the two carpels is loaded with a seed.

Cumin cultivation extends from North Africa across Asia Minor to North India. The herb also thrives in the Soviet Union, China and Latin America. India and Iran are the ‘preferred origin’ of the seed.

India is the largest producer of cumin seed in the world, with Gujarat accounting for about 60%. China and Turkey are also significant sources of cumin; and a limited quantify originates from Egypt. Cumin-1, a single plant selection developed from germplasm material, is the best variety which gives good resistance against diseases like wilt and alternaria blight and yields 700 kg/h of seeds, oblong in shape and ash-brown in color. The annual quantity harvested averages 45,000-50,000 t. Not more than 4% of the seeds raised in India are exported, though 10-15% could be spared without eroding the country’s requirements. Total consumption of this spice outside of India is ca 15,000 t.

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