(Last Updated on : 23/03/2009)
Cumin or Jeera, the dried yellowish to grayish brown seeds of a small slender annual herb, belongs to the coriander family. Cumin is known with various names all across the nation. In Hindi, Cumin is called Jira, Safaid Jeera, in Bengali, it is called Jeere, while in Punjabi, it is Jira. Cumin is believed to be the native of Egypt, Syria, Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Cumin tree grows to the height of 30 to 45 cm and produces a stem with many branches bearing long, finely divided, deep green leaves and small flowers, white or rose in color, borne in umbels. The botanical name of Cumin is Cuminum cyminum Linn. In India, cumin is cultivated in almost all the states, but leading states are Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. It is said to be cultivated or occasionally found as a weed in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Bihar.
The aromatic seed-like fruit, commonly known as `seed`, is elongated, oval, approximately 6 mm long and light yellowish brown in color, somewhat similar to caraway seed but slightly longer. The odor is peculiar, strong and heavy, pleasant to some and rather disagreeable to others, while flavor is warm, slightly bitter and somewhat disagreeable. The dried fruit is crushed and soon thereafter, it is steam distilled to yield 2.5 to 4.5 % of valuable volatile oil, colorless or pale yellow, turning dark on keeping. The yield of the oil depends upon the quality and age of the seed; the older seeds contain less oil. The chief constituent of the oil is cuminaldehyde (20 to 40 %) and is used in perfumery. In addition to volatile oil, the seed also contains about 10 % fixed (non-volatile) greenish brown oil with a strong aromatic flavor. It is a semi drying oil having an iodine value of 92.
Cumin seeds have an aromatic odor and a spicy and somewhat bitter taste. These are largely used as condiment and form an essential ingredient in all mixed spices and curry powders for flavoring soups, pickles, curries, and for seasoning breads, cakes and so on. Aqueous extract of cumin seed is frequently used for removing intestinal worms. The seeds have been considered as stimulant, carminative, stomachic, astringent and useful in diarrhea and dyspepsia. The essential oil is similarly used for flavoring various food items and as a basic perfume. The oil cake is a good cattle fodder.
The post harvesting technique of the Cumin seeds are extremely simple and easily adoptable. There are a number of schemes drawn by various departments, which can easily be implemented. Similarly technology of steam distillation is also well known thus can help for further value addition. If the medicinal virtues, Cumin is considered there is possibility of many projects down stream. The flowers of Cumin during the season yield sufficient nectar, thus can assure us with tasty honey. Cumin honey is viscous, contains higher quantity of iron and has higher quantity of unsaturated sugar. It also has attractive aroma. By practicing beekeeping, not only that it shall ensure an additional product but also increase production of cumin due to pollination.
Cumin is a tropical plant. It grows well in sub-tropical climate too. High humidity during flowering & fruit set, causes fungal diseases in this crop. Cumin can be cultivated in all types of soils but well drained sandy loam and medium soils are suitable for the crop. Sowing is done from 1st week of November to 1st week of December by broadcasting or in rows drilled at 30 cm. The crop should be kept free from weeds for proper growth and development of plants. Generally 2-3 hand weeding are required to keep the weeds under check. In drilled crop light intercultural operation is beneficial. 1st weeding and hoeing should be done after 30-40 days from the date of sowing.
Infected Cumin plants show peculiar symptoms of dropping of tips and leaves, leading to mortality of the entire plant. Attack of wilt is severe in younger plants. There is no chemical control for this disease. Crop rotation and use of Neem cake are helpful in checking spread of the fungus vis-à-vis disease. Seeds collected from disease free plots should only be used for sowing. Affected Cumin plants in early stages show minute whitish spots on leaves, petiole, stem pedicel and seeds. In severe condition, it looks as the plants have been dusted with white powder. At later stages of attack seeds become white, shriveled, and light in weight.
The Alternaria Blight affected Cumin plants show very minute brownish necrotic spots, which later turn to blackish. Mostly diseased plants fail to produce seeds. If seeds are produced they remain shriveled, light in weight and dark in colour. For the control of this disease seed treatment and spraying of 0.2% solution of Dithane-M-45 4 times at 10 days interval commencing from 40 days after sowing is recommended. Add 1 ml soap solution / liter water for better efficiency of fungicide. The crop should be kept free from weeds. Crops requiring more irrigation and mustard crop should not be grown in vicinity of this crop.
Generally cumin crop takes about 110-115 days to reach maturity. Crop becomes ready to harvest, when plants turn yellowish brown. Harvesting should be done early in the morning by cutting/uprooting the whole plants. Harvested crop should be dried in the threshing yard thrashed to separate the seeds. Winnowing should clean Cumin seeds. The Cumin plan is useful to mankind in every form and industries are built dealing with these raw Cumin seeds, all across the nation.