Oval in shape and a little like caraway seeds in appearance, their bitter-sweet spicy taste makes them popular in Indian curries and rice dishes, as well as Tex-Mex, European, Middle eastern and North African cooking.
In India, where cumin seeds are known as jeera, they are often fried first in hot oil to release their earthy flavour.
Cumin seeds are also an essential ingredient in many spice blends such as curry powder, some masalas, Cajun spice mix and panch phoran.
Dry-fried then ground, a pinch of cumin gives a spicy kick when mixed into or sprinkled over hummus or raita. Though it can also be bought as a powder, cumin has more flavour and lasts longer when bought whole, then roasted and ground as needed.
DID YOU KNOW
There are also black cumin seeds which are smaller and sweeter, but they are much harder to find and more expensive.