Cumin seed is one of those go to ingredients to add warmth and spice to rice and bean dishes. So why not grow your own in your garden?
Cumin requires a longer growing season than many herbs and spices, so a poly tunnel or greenhouse are perfect solutions. In the UK we have a very real fear of frost as Cumin is heat sensitive. An annual from the parsley family, best sown directly to avoid disturbing the roots when transplanted.
In order to grow cumin for a crop you will need a larger space than you may have in your polytunnel, so let’s look at ways to get it started and then move out with minimal disruption to those long taproots.
How To Grow Cumin From Seed UK
There are a few top tips for getting a good germination rate in colder climates and cumin will reward your efforts!
TOP TIP soak your cumin seeds overnight before sowing to allow them to waken up and start to get ready for germination.
Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before the fear of frost has passed. Use a heated propagator to ensure a good germination rate. Plant in biodegradable pots, 1/4 inch deep. Water your cumin seeds well and in 14 days time germination should have taken place.
Around three weeks after germination you will want to acclimatize your cumin seedlings to the outside temperature. No lower than 60F about 15C, which is later in the season than you might think.
How To Grow Cumin From Seed Sown Direct
If you live in warmer climates USDA hardiness zones 5-9 ideally, then you can sow direct and expect a good period for the growing season. If however you are in the UK the best bet for sowing direct is inside a poly tunnel or green house. Due to the amount of space you will need for this fabulous annual it is not really ideal for conservatories or porches or even windowsills.
Wait until night temperatures stay above 60F or 15C. Sow cumin seeds 1/4 inch deep in rows around a foot apart and each seed 8 inches apart. Choose a sunny spot with adequate drainage. Water well and keep moist, 1-2 weeks later germination should have taken place.
Keep the area as weed free as possible until the cumin plants have taken.
Caring For Cumin Plants
The care part is pretty straightforward as cumin is drought tolerant. This is due to it’s long taproot, but a good water before the soil dries out completely is always welcome.
If anything cumin will attract more beneficial bugs and pollinators to your garden and become a real asset to any Country Cottage Garden.
Common Pests & Diseases For Cumin Plants
A few issues with aphids may occur on the younger tips and shoots of your cumin plant. However it attracts lacewing and ladybirds to the garden who are natural predators for many bugs.
As for diseases there are a few to watch out for. Alternaria blight occurs when you have plants too closely packed in a humid growing season. It will result in the seeds not being able to fully develop in the seed head. This is your main crop with cumin so it is important to reduce watering and only inter plant when fear of overcrowding has passed.
This is the rewarding bit.
From sowing your seeds to harvesting your cumin will be between 100-120 days of sunshine. The plants grow to 1-2 feet in height but without the right amount of sunlight you may never see your flowers turn to seed heads.
Whilst the seed harvesting process is relatively straightforward it is important to note that each plant will not mature at the same rate. This means a bit of time needs to be taken to check up on your flower heads and base your harvesting for a few clumps at a time. To be fair this is a nice excuse to walk around your garden in early Autumn with a cup of tea and a bit of purpose. It is also handy as you will need to find space to hang your cumin seed heads to allow the unripe seeds to turn and fall out.
I tend to go out checking when I get home from work. It is a nice transition period from hectic life to relaxed life. You are looking for the flowerheads that have gone over and are turning white and brittle looking. They are almost skeleton like but not turned black as that is when you have just missed out.
Cut your cumin seed heads to about 6-8 inches, this gives you enough length to tie together. Really you will only be able to bundle 4-6 stalks at a time. Use an elastic band to ensure that there is circulation of air around the stems. Use a paperclip to make a hook and fold it through your elastic band. Then pop a brown paper bag over the flower head. Hang it to dry and wait for around 3 weeks until the cumin plant has turned black and you can either shake gently to dislodge your seeds, or you can rub the outer shell between fingers and thumb to destroy it. You then need to pick out the non-seed bits.
It can be a bit time consuming but it is relaxing and all part of the growing process. When it comes to storing your cumin seeds do not be tempted to process them any further. Literally collection is all you need to do. Clear a jar and make sure it is completely dry. Label it up to show the seeds and date harvested. This is essential as cumin will hold it’s flavor for around 2 years if kept in an airtight container in a cool and dark cupboard.
I dream of having one of those walk in larders you see on cooking shows, but for now a cupboard beside my stove is just fine for storing our dried herbs and spices.
The harvesting process will take you through to early Winter and it is lovely to filly our kitchen with the smells of cumin toasting and the drying process is quite a snuggly warm one for your home.
To process your cumin seeds into ground cumin you will need a coffee grinder. Keep it dedicated to your herbs and spices as otherwise you will have a coffee aroma in the background to your cooking.
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- Growing Cardamom In The UK
- How To Grow Ginger From Seed
- Fennel Seeds Vs Cumin Seeds Important Differences
- The Science of Spice: Understand Flavour Connections and Revolutionize your Cooking by Dr Stuart Farrimond
It will be great to hear how you get on with your own cumin crop! Please be sure to let us know.