(Cuminum Cyminum, Linn.), a low-growing annual herb of the Nile
valley, but cultivated in the Mediterranean region, Arabia, Egypt,
Morocco, India, China, and Palestine from very early times, (See Isaiah
xviii, 25-27 and Matthew xxiii, 23.) Pliny is said to have considered it
the best appetizer of all condiments. During the middle ages it was in
very common use. All the old herbals of the sixteenth and the
nturies figure and describe and extol it. In Europe it is
extensively cultivated in Malta and Sicily, and will mature seed as far
north as Norway; in America, today, the seed is cataloged by some
seedsmen, but very little is grown.
Description.--The plant is very diminutive, rarely exceeding a height
of 6 inches. Its stems, which branch freely from the base, bear mere
linear leaves and small lilac flowers, in little umbels of 10 to 20
blossoms each. The six-ribbed, elongated "seeds" in appearance resemble
caraway seeds, but are straighter, lighter and larger, and in formation
are like the double seeds of coriander, convex on one side and concave
on the other. They bear long hairs, which fold up when the seed is dry.
After the seed has been kept for two years it begins to lose its
germinating power, but will sprout reasonably well when three years old.
It is characterized by a peculiar, strong aromatic odor, and a hot
Culture.--As soon as the ground has become warm the seed is sown in
drills about 15 inches apart where the plants are to remain. Except for
keeping down the weeds no further attention is necessary. The plants
mature in about two months, when the stems are cut and dried in the
shade. (See page 28.) The seeds are used in India as an ingredient in
curry powder, in France for flavoring pickles, pastry and soups.