Cuminum cyminum. Cumin is one of the most widely used spices in the world. Its strong flavour balances well with other aromatic spices, and it is central to an incredibly wide range of spice mixes and marinades. In a good hot summer, cumin will produce a wide, robust umbel of tiny white flowers, followed by the unmistakable seeds. While in bloom, cumin joins its cousins cilantro, caraway, and dill as highly prized food sources for a host of beneficial insects. Cumin can even be planted for this single purpose, and it will attract ladybird beetles, lacewings, hover flies, and a wide range of predatory wasps. Cumin grows to about 50cm (20") tall.
Matures in 120 days. (Open-pollinated seeds)
Cumin is used in nearly all cuisines of the world. It is commercially grown in North Africa and West Asia, but if it’s given a head start and a warm summer, it will be productive in gardens. Before it produces its strongly aromatic seeds, its flowers will attract a host of beneficial insect predators that will help to control garden pests. Find out more about how to grow cumin from seed in the guide that follows.
Season & Zone
Season: Warm season
Exposure: Full sun
Cumin needs a long hot season to produce seeds. Start indoors four weeks before the last frost date, and transplant outside once temperatures are steadily above 15°C (60°F). Ideal temperature for germination: 20-30°C (68-86°F), so use bottom heat. Seeds should sprout in 7-14 days.
Sow 5mm (¼”) deep. Transplant at a spacing of 10cm (4″).
Cumin needs approximately 120 days to maturity from the sowing date to produce viable seeds. It is an annual member of the carrot family, and produces umbelliferous flowers that are highly attractive to beneficial garden insect predators. Flowering begins mid-summer.
Cut the seed heads to dry indoors as late in the season as possible, or as soon as seeds can be seen to fall from the seed head.
Usual seed life: 2 years.
As an umbelifer, cumin produces shallow flowers that are arranged in an umbel. All umbelifers are naturally attractive to predatory insects such as lacewings, ladybird beetles, and parasitoid wasps. Plant near any crop that normally attracts caterpillars or aphids.
More on Companion Planting.