Our wild cumin is hand-picked by foragers in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan. They are tiny, oblong and black with long stems. Botanically distinct from common cumin (Cuminum cyminum), our wild mountain cumin is renowned in Afghanistan and throughout central and south Asia for its delicious flavor as well as its medicinal properties. It has a savory, penetrating aroma and bright, umami flavor evocative of grilled meats and sweet caramelized onions.
“Even stale grocery store cumin usually smells like something, but this is like a supercharged version of what you know and love from Sichuan food or tacos. It’s incredibly versatile — we use it to crust things, or in sauces and vinaigrettes. Sometimes we dry toast it and hit it in a mortar and pestle, then top a salsa with it to get all the little crunchy bits for additional texture.” - Rikki Giambruno, Chef and Owner of Hyacinth in Saint Paul
Our wild mountain cumin is sourced directly from networks of foragers in the Hindu Kush mountain range of Badakhshan province in the northeastern corner of Afghanistan. The Hindu Kush range is characterized by steep, rocky peaks cut through by green river valleys; the significant snowfall in the winter results in abundant vegetation in the short spring and summer seasons despite low rainfall. The rocky soil cultivates an ancient and resilient varietal of cumin with a warm pungent flavor and irresistible aroma.
The cumin grows wild and other than the small quantities we export, is harvested only for local consumption; there is no scalability or institutional infrastructure for export, and we are only able to source this very rare cumin varietal because of Burlap & Barrel founder Ethan’s years working in Badakhshan and surrounding provinces.
Burlap & Barrel is the only importer of wild mountain cumin from Afghanistan. Our cumin grows wild and can be considered naturally organic as no pesticides or other chemicals are used in its cultivation.
Meet the Forager: Ali Mohamed collects our wild mountain cumin from foragers who bring it down to Faizabad from the high mountains of Afghanistan's Hindu Kush, cleans it, and prepares it for shipment.