The cumin used in cooking is the dried seed of an plant that is native along the arc extending from the eastern Mediterranean over to India and which belongs to the same family as parsley. It is especially aromatic with a strong flavor that is slightly bitter. Cumin adds a peppery taste to food.
Cumin is one of the base spices in the spice blend known as curry. As its consumption is highest in countries with large populations, it’s the spice with the second highest consumption in the world after pepper.
While cumin is among the second-rank spices of Greek cuisine today, in antiquity it held a lofty position on the table–literally as it was used the way we use salt and pepper today. Cumin can be used whole or ground. For a more intense flavor, dry roast seeds first in the oven or a non-stick frying pan.
Cumin’s flavor develops gradually so it is always added to the pot as cooking starts. It’s used whole or cracked, especially in marinades or brine.