Cumin – the aroma of Indian cooking

Looking back at my newsletters over the years, I’ve written often enough about the vibrant colour of tumeric and its health benefits. Clearly I’m more of a visual than olfactory person. While tumeric can be considered the colour of Indian cooking, cumin is the aroma. I love inhaling the scent of freshly ground cumin, and if I can distinguish the cumin in a meal, I know it’s going to be a good one.

Cumin was very common in ancient Greece, where it was kept on the table much like salt and pepper today. It was so well-known that an ancient insult was to call someone a cumin-splitter – someone too stingy to share a whole seed. Stingy isn’t the word I’d use for someone diligent enough to split a single cumin seed!

However, the Middle Ages saw Europe develop a collective sweet tooth, and cumin was surpassed in popularity by sweet spices such as cinnamon.

Cumin has traditionally been used for the digestive system, with recent research indicating that cumin may stimulate pancreatic enzymes, important for digestion and nutrient absorption. It’s also showing promise in protecting from certain cancers, in particular stomach and liver.

In slightly less useful fashion, it was also apparently commonly used as an ancient cosmetic to create a pallid complexion on the skin. The reason? The first source I came across rather dubiously said that it was to mislead teachers into thinking the student had been up all night studying! However, apparently a pale complexion was the aesthetic feature of great scholars, presumably distinguishing them from the common person who actually sometimes went outdoors.

A number of people have queried how to clean their water bottles if they start to go a bit green. I’ve used mine since we launched the Newlands Spring water collection service in July 2011. Although I’ve never had to clean mine, so can’t give any personal advice, to prevent them turning green in the first place make sure you store the bottles away from light, and that when the bottle is empty you shake the drops out and then leave the top off so that all the moisture can evaporate. Water tends to collect in the corners, so you’ll need to shake thoroughly. We call it the rain dance in the warehouse when we get the returns!

Green Map
Those that ordered in the middle of June would have received a complementary copy of the Cape Town Green Map in their box, but we still have ample copies left if you wish to get hold of one. It’s a map of all things green

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