Black seed, Black cumin, Roman coriander, Nigella, Kalonji, Zeera or Black caraway
An annual summer blooming herb in the buttercup family with white, light yellow or pale blue flowers. They have an interesting claw shaped flower pistil, which is the central female part of the flower that later becomes the dried and inflated seedpod. Our flowers are the pale blue variety.
Does well when seeded directly into the garden in the fall or early spring but easy to start in flats or pots. Thrives in regular garden soil and full sun, but can handle part sun with poor soil as well. Black seed resembles its relative Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascaena), with feathery foliage and simple flowers growing up to about a foot tall. Loved by bees!
Wait to harvest seed until the seedpods are quite dry but keep an eye on them as they start to split open so you can catch the seeds before they get dropped. Plant a good number of plants (30+) in the spring, provide regular water and some compost for a good harvest.
Black seed enjoys great renown and a considerable history of cultivation and use in traditional Arab and African medicines stretching back to ancient Egypt and there is a substantial body of current scientific research exploring the many medical/nutritional aspects of this plant. Search pubmed.gov with “nigella sativa” and you’ll find that since 1964 over 650 peer-reviewed studies referencing it have been published.
Traditionally used for indigestion, appetite loss, parasites and inflammation. It was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, which suggests they thought he would need it in the afterlife. The prophet of Islam Muhammed is believed to have said that “It is a remedy for all diseases except death.”
It is starting to be recognized in the west as a super food for its high content of beneficial compounds.
Consumed as an oil or seed, either internally or topically, used as a condiment, all in small amounts. I like to grind and blend it with black pepper, or throw it in loose-leaf chai tea blends. Experiment with the flavor and see what you like.
Black seed has a high content of thymoquinone, thymohydroquinone and thymol, naturally formed compounds with powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity.
Other compounds that it contains are nigellone which inhibits histamine release and may help to reduce allergy symptoms. Interestingly the seeds are very high in melanin. It is a different form than the melanins that color our skin, eyes, hair and is found throughout our nervous systems (neuromelanin) and in other parts of the body. Melanins in plants and animals have a strong antioxidant property that is part of photo-protective and chemo-protective (guarding against light and chemical damage) roles. (Adila El-Obeid et. al wjpls, 2016, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 147-153)
Black seed shares some common names with an unrelated species Bunium bulbocastanum in the carrot family whose roots, leaves, and seeds are also used as condiment or confection and called black cumin or black caraway.
Packet: 100 seeds