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How to Shop for High Quality Cumin

When selecting spices like saffron and cumin, it’s extremely important to look for high quality options. But how do you distinguish quality? Although there are a few ways to test saffron threads for quality, here are a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for high quality cumin.


Cumin Spice

Aromatic cumin seeds come from a bushy, flowering plant native to the Eastern Mediterranean. The wispy fronds of the cumin plant are very similar to that of its cousins: anise, carrot and parsley, but its seeds are what are harvested to create cumin spice. Available in both ground or whole form, cumin is one of the world’s most popular spices and is commonly used in Indian, Latin American, Mexican, Middle Eastern and North African cuisines.

The most common varieties of cumin are brownish-yellow in color. However, you can also find black cumin, green cumin and white cumin. Cumin can be grown domesticated or in the wild. Unlike our saffron, which is grown and harvested on saffron farms, our black cumin is grown in the wild and is hand-picked by farmers and foragers in multiple regions of Afghanistan, including the beautiful Hindu Kush mountains. Although these plants grow in the wild, they are still carefully hand-harvested by Afghan women and men who forage the foothills of the mountains.

Cumin seeds are harvested after the plant’s stalks have been dried. After the drying process is complete, the branches are shaken to separate the cumin seeds from the plant. From there, the cumin seeds are cleaned of any dirt and are then dried further before they’re packaged and shipped out to sellers. During this process, there may be a risk in adulterating the final product, which is why it’s important to know how to look for high quality cumin sources. High value products such as wild black cumin bring more value at market, so might be mixed with caraway.

Shopping for Cumin

When shopping for cumin, it’s ideal to find a provider that restocks their inventory frequently. You never know when a grocery store last restocked their spice supplies, so shopping at a spot that is frequently restocking their spices gives you a better opportunity to get your hands on a fresh batch. Credible online retailers that offer high quality spices are also great options when shopping for the best cumin spice. Check the shelf life stated for the spice bottles as well - anything that says it will last over three years should raise a red flag!

Cumin Shopping Tips

  • Regular cumin seeds are yellow and brown in color. Oval in shape, they closely resemble caraway seeds, so read the label carefully to make sure you aren’t actually purchasing caraway seeds!

  • Black cumin seeds are smaller in size, and darker brown to black, with some lighter streaks. Black cumin is harder to find and often confused with caraway, or nigella seed (which interestingly looks nothing like black cumin), but the confusion between these spices lie mostly in the translation of ‘black cumin’ in many languages where it is commonly used.

    Shop our authentic Wild Harvested Black Cumin here



  • If you plan on cooking up traditional cumin dishes, you may find yourself having to choose between whole seed cumin and ground. Whole seed cumin keeps longer and its flavor is more pronounced when ground moments before use. Whole seed can also offer an added texture to certain dishes. Ground cumin has the obvious benefit of saving time and cleaning on grinding.

  • Looking for an added punch of flavor? Check out our hand-packed black cumin spice blends: Southwest Chili Cumin Spice Blend, Ethiopian Berbere Cumin Spice Blend, and Mexican Adobo Cumin Spice Blend.

    Shop our Black Cumin Spice Blends collection here

  • Tip: All spices should be stored in an air-tight container and in a cool, dark place. If your cumin does not have a strong smell after opening, that is a sign your batch of cumin has started to lose its flavor. Give it a good sniff and you will know if your cumin is ready to be used or tossed and replaced with something fresher. Cumin won’t go bad from a food safety perspective, but it will lose its intensity after an extended period of time.
    The next time you go shopping for cumin, keep these shopping tips in mind so you purchase high quality cumin for your kitchen!

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