Cumin is an aromatic herb often also referred to as “caraway“, a term that suggests its spontaneous presence in natural environments. It is precisely in the meadows, pastures, and uncultivated areas that it is often found in a mixture with many other essences, especially in the areas of the Alps.
In some texts we can find its name also written as “Comino”, but it is the same species, botanically called Carum carvi.
It is not difficult to cultivate this beautiful plant, from which tasty seeds are obtained, which we can then use as an aroma in the kitchen. Cumin leaves are also edible, very pleasant in salads. So let’s see how to introduce the cultivation of this species in the garden.
The cumin plant
Its life cycle is two years, the stem is about 60-80 cm high, has a similar appearance to that of the wild carrot, and the root is a white taproot.
The first year the plant develops a rosette of oblong leaves with a slightly rough consistency. Then, after spending the winter, in the late spring and summer, the flowers appear, typically collected in umbrella-shaped inflorescences and white, which are gladly visited by bees and other insects. From the flowers then some fruits are formed, which are achenes, and which represent the main purpose of its cultivation because they contain the small black seeds.
Suitable climate and terrain
For the cultivation of cumin, it is good to choose sunny locations and also sheltered from the winds to avoid premature loss of seed once it has formed and is maturing.
As a climate, cumin adapts discreetly to the cold and can therefore also be grown in the north and the mountains, up to 2000 meters above sea level. The best soils are neutral or even with a slightly basic pH, and fertile. Acid soils are not indicated, so the pH is a rather important datum to know about the soil we have available, do not worry: measuring it is very simple.
Sow the cumin
The sowing of cumin can take place directly in the field from early spring, even broadcasting, and since the seeds are very small, it is important to be very careful in handling and distributing them, so as not to overdo it by dropping too many in the same place.
Cumin seeds can be found, even if garden centers do not always have them, at least they can be found online. After the first purchase, it will be easy to preserve them from one year to another.
The ideal, in a vegetable garden, is to dedicate a portion of the border or a corner of a round or spiral flowerbed to each aromatic plant, but cumin can also be grown on a larger area, depending on the objectives set. In any case, before sowing, you must make sure that you have worked the soil well and thus obtained a soft seedbed.
If the previous crop had been amended and fertilized abundantly with compost and pelleted manure, or other natural fertilizers, we can avoid distributing them again because this aromatic suffices the residual fertility not consumed by past crops, while if it has been for a long time, that is more one year, that no compost is distributed on-site, it must be done now. The organic fertility of the soil is an aspect that must never be neglected, even when cultivating essences that are satisfied with a lean substrate.
The cultivation of cumin can also be carried out without problems in pots, as long as this is well exposed to the sun and remembering to water more often than the cultivation on the ground.
Sowing in seedbeds with subsequent transplanting of the seedlings at suitable distances, ie about 25-30 cm from each other, cannot be excluded.
How it is grown
After the birth of the seedlings, it will be necessary to perform some thinning, especially if we notice that the emergence is very dense in certain points, because then as the plants grow, they branch off and form small bushes.
Initial irrigation is essential, especially if it does not rain, while in the event of frequent spring precipitation it will be sufficient to intervene when the soil dries up. Another important operation not to be overlooked is the cleaning of weeds, to be carried out as soon as possible, necessarily by hand or with a hoe in the case of row sowing. You can also try the clod breaker to pass between the rows in a comfortable and fast way.
Collection and use
Cumin is a generous plant, we can use the leaves, roots, and seeds.
Already in the summer of the first year, we can use the young cumin leaves, cutting them, taking care to respect the vegetative heart, which allows the shoots. The leaves look great in mixed salads and are also suitable for flavoring cooked dishes. The roots, which can be pulled out in autumn, are eaten as a cooked vegetable instead.
Harvest of seeds
The plants we leave in the field will grow to seed in the following spring and the seeds will be ripe from August to October of the second year when we will notice the yellowing of the umbels. The umbrellas are put to complete their drying in the shade, then we can beat them and finally separate the seeds from the other parts.
The seeds are small and in the most valuable variety, black cumin, dark. We can store them in glass jars, and use them if necessary, to put them in the bread dough or on the crust before baking, on cheese, in cakes, or together with vegetables. Their flavor is quite strong and vaguely exotic and is appreciated for its digestive properties. The German name of this species, Kümmel, is known for the excellent liqueur that is obtained from it.
It is also advisable to keep several seeds separately to be used for sowing the following year, to avoid buying them again. Plants that have matured and not harvested disseminate very easily, so much so that the crop can become a little weed, and this allows us to spontaneously multiply it if desired.
You may be interested to read about the grow coriander blogpost/ Marigold cultivation blogpost/ Chervil and its cultivation blogpost/ Grow thistles blogpost/ Borage cultivation blogpost/ Grow dill blogpost/ Wild garlic blogpost/ Chicken fried recipe.