Most commonly grown for its flavorful seeds, cumin is a member of the same plant family as parsley and has been cultivated by humans for millennia. As a tropical to subtropical plant, it needs a warm, relatively dry growing season with overnight lows above 60 ˚F. The annual herb plants grow to between 1–1.5′ tall, with several slender branched stems of grey or dark green and 2–4″ long, feather-like leaves. White or pink flowers grow in umbels, a shape resembling an upside down umbrella. Cumin seeds are elongated and thin, ridged, and yellow to brown in color. It is often sold as a powder and is used in many different international cuisines, including Mexican and Indian. Leaves are also edible.
Seed Depth: .5″
Space Between Plants: 4″
Space Between Rows: 8″
Germination Soil Temperature: 65–70 °F
Days for Germination: 7–14 days
Sow Indoors: 6–8 weeks before average last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: 1–3 weeks after average last frost date.
Grows best in warmer, tropical, or semi-tropical climates but is susceptible to disease if conditions are too humid. As plants need a longer growing season, plants should be started indoors in cooler regions until the outdoor temperature lows reach a minimum of 60˚F.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: Will grow indoors under T5 fluorescent lamps or high intensity growing lamps, such as MH or HPS. HIDs should be kept between 2–4′ above the plants, and T5s should be kept approximately 1′ above, to avoid burning.
Soil: Prefers well-drained, aerated, loamy soil. A pH of between 4.5–8.0 will allow plants to grow, but cumin will grow best at a pH between 6.0–8.0.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in a soilless mix such as perlite, rock wool, or vermiculite.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in a hydroponic media bed.
Aeroponics: Will thrive in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires moderate to high levels of water. Although it is somewhat drought resistance, cumin will require higher amounts of water during hot spells to keep the soil moist.
Nutrients: Requires moderate to high levels of nutrients. To prepare the soil, use 6” of regular soil with 2” of compost on top.
Foliar: Feed with compost tea throughout the growing season.
Pruning: Thinning should be done approximately a month after plants have been sown.
Companions: Grows well with plants in the cabbage family, beets, cucumbers, and potatoes.
Harvest: The whole plant should be harvested by being cut down 1–21 days after maturity. Plant is mature once seed pods have turned brown and crack easily when squeezed.
Storage: Store seeds in airtight containers in a cool place out of direct sunlight until ready to use.
Fun Facts: As one of the main ingredients in curry and chili, cumin has long been a very popular spice. Like black pepper, it was once used as currency!
Preserve: To preserve, either dry by storing in a cool dark place or grind into power before storing. Please note, however, that once cumin is crushed, it will lose some of its flavor.
Prepare: Used in many South Asian, Latin American, and North African dishes, cumin is commonly used as whole seeds or as a powder in many soups, stews, gravies, sauces, and chillies.
Nutritional: High in many vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, and copper. Cumin is also high in antioxidants and possesses antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
Medicinal: Taken in various forms, cumin has been historically used in traditional medicine for stomach ailments ranging from loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and gas. Some sources have also cited cumin as assisting in fever reduction.
For a tasty, healthy side-dish, try these Cumin-Roasted Beets.