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This was a very largely used spice not far after the use of pepper and lovage. Cumin seed was what was mainly used , first toasted in an oven or dry pan and then ground very like pepper. This spice is also used extensively in recipes from Asia, and the Middle East. However, cumin has been all but completely left out of the recipes of the Italian world. The green leaves of the cumin plant can also be used and can be a very good additive to some dishes as well.
Cumin is fairly easy to grow in climates which are mild and temperate. It is said that one Theophrastus (Theo. VII-iii-2), has indicated that while planting (sowing) cumin seed, "One should curse and shout," to encourage the cumin seed to grow and flourish. Pliney has indicated that Cumin encourages the human pregnancy. Women were more likely to get pregnant faster and more surely if the odor of the crushed cumin seed were smelt during sexual intercourse (Plin. N.H. XX- lvii). Another saying was that cumin caused the facial features to turn pale, as in sickness or death. It is said that Julius Vindex, among others, who lived during the same period as Nero , took in large amounts of cumin seed in order to provide false hope to those who were false flatters awaiting a possible increase in their share of their inheritance.
Patrick Faas, "Around the Roman Table," Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005 (ISBN 0-226-23347-2 (paper)