Ground cumin, freshly ground in a spice mill or using a pestle and mortar, is a commonly used spice in cooking. It is also frequently found in spice mixes. And although the names are similar, cumin is not related to caraway.
From Wikipedia: “Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to South Asia.
Its seeds (each one contained within a fruit, which is dried) are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form. It also has many uses as a traditional medicinal plant.”
“Cumin seed is used as a spice for its distinctive flavour and aroma. It is globally popular and an essential flavouring in many cuisines, particularly South Asian (where it is called jeera), Northern African, and Latin American cuisines. Cumin can be found in some cheeses, such as Leyden cheese, and in some traditional breads from France. It is commonly used in traditional Brazilian cuisine. Cumin can be an ingredient in chili powder (often Tex-Mex or Mexican-style), and is found in achiote blends, adobos, sofrito, garam masala, curry powder, and bahaarat. In Myanmar, cumin is used as a spice. In South Asian cooking, it is often combined with coriander seeds in a powdered mixture called dhana jeera.
Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds. It helps to add an earthy and warming feeling to food, making it a staple in certain stews and soups, as well as spiced gravies such as chili. It is also used as an ingredient in some pickles and pastries.”
“In Sanskrit, cumin is known as jiraka “that which helps digestion" and is called zira in Persian/Urdu. In the Ayurvedic system, dried cumin seeds are believed to have medicinal purposes. These seeds are powdered and used in different forms like kashaya (decoction), arishta (fermented decoction), vati (tablet/pills), and processed with ghee (a semifluid clarified butter). It is used internally and sometimes for external applications also.
In southern Indian states, such as Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, a popular drink called jira water is made by boiling cumin seeds.”
“In a 100 gram amount, cumin seeds are nutritionally rich, providing high amounts of the Daily Value for fat (especially monounsaturated fat), protein and dietary fiber. Values for B vitamins, vitamin E, and several dietary minerals, especially iron, are also considerable when expressed in 100 gram amounts.
One tablespoon of ground cumin powder contains negligible food energy and nutrient content.”
Confusion with other spices:
“Cumin is sometimes confused with caraway (Carum carvi), another umbelliferous spice. Cumin, though, is hotter to the taste, lighter in color, and larger. Many European languages do not distinguish clearly between the two. Many Slavic and Uralic languages refer to cumin as "Roman caraway". Examples include Czech: kmín – caraway, římský kmín -cumin; Polish: kminek – caraway, kmin rzymski – cumin; Slovene: kumina – caraway, kumin – cumin; Hungarian: kömény – caraway, római kömény – cumin. Finnish: kumina – caraway, roomankumina – cumin, although sometimes also called juustokumina, cheese caraway. In Norwegian, caraway is called both karve and kummin while cumin is spisskummen, from German Speis(e) meaning "food". Similarly in Swedish and Danish, caraway is kummin/kommen, while cumin is spiskummin/spidskommen. In German, Kümmel stands for caraway and Kreuzkümmel denotes cumin. In Icelandic, caraway is kúmen, while cumin is kúmín. In Romanian, chimen, chimion is caraway, while chimion turcesc (Turkish caraway), cumin, camon is cumin.
The distantly related Bunium persicum, Bunium bulbocastanum and the unrelated Nigella sativa are both sometimes called black cumin (q.v.).”