Cumin ( /ˈkjuːmɨn/ or UK /ˈkʌmɨn/, US /ˈkuːmɨn/; sometimes spelled cummin; Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to East India. Its seeds, in ground form, are used in the cuisines of many different cultures.
(Description From Wiki)
Cumin is one of the most essential ingredients used in Indian cooking. It has strong digestive properties and thus makes even the most richly flavored food light on stomach. It is also a very good source of iron and magnesium and helps in detoxification of human body. It is also known to aid in cancer cure. Lactating mothers are often asked to add more cumin seeds to their diet. And pregnant women are advised to take water boiled with cumin seeds in case of any gastric problem or pain.
As a spice, cumin is mildly hot with a distinct strong and flavored aroma. You can either roast them and then use in the dish or crackle them in hot oil, thus treating them as the base for curries. In many parts of India, the roasted to black and then powdered cumin seeds are used as salad and ‘raita’ seasoning. The pungent and slightly bitter and burnt flavor gives an entirely new texture to the dish.
One can also use cumin powder instead of cumin seeds but the later are preferred for their more powerful aromatic properties since the powder loses most of its flavor and smell when stored for a long time. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to use cumin powder in uniform and dense curries / sauces where the requirement is to have its flavor merge with the rest instead of acting as a base, and sometimes even the prominent feature of a dish.
* Pictures from Google