Research by Susan Francia, published in The Local Historian, shows that many rents were paid in cumin. Landlords would accept a pound of pepper and another of cumin for a year’s tenancy. This practice continued for centuries during the medieval warm period, suggesting the climate was good enough for the spice to be grown here. Evidence for this is that wild cumin plants can still occasionally be found in warmer southern parts of the UK and instructions for growing it appeared in some herbals of the period. There are also records from Essex of tithes being paid in cumin. However, there were such large quantities used in the UK for food and medicine that most must have been imported. It appears that cumin is making a comeback both in our diets and in our herb gardens because our warming climate allows successful cultivation here again. Cumin seeds are fairly hard to get hold of, but plants sown in spring after the last frost should now be producing seeds suitable for cooking.
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