Nixa Hardware

Nigella seeds add a five-spice taste similar to black cumin

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Nigella blooms in an intricate display of colors ranging from white to lavender to yellow.

Nigella blooms in an intricate display of colors ranging from white to lavender to yellow.

Nigella seeds are hard and crunchy with a flavor somewhat like toasted onions. In India, it is often dry roasted and used on flatbreads like naan. They are particularly good with potatoes and root vegetables. They are also one of the five spices that make up panch poran, a spice mixture from Bengal.

The nigella seed is edible and tasty, a bit like toasted onion. And the seed pod is a study in the beauty of nature.

The nigella seed is edible and tasty, a bit like toasted onion. And the seed pod is a study in the beauty of nature.

Nestlé has reportedly filed a patent application covering use of N. sativa as a food allergy treatment. Nestlé claims that the patent would cover “the specific way that thymoquinone – a compound that can be extracted from the seed of the fennel flower – interacts with opioid receptors in the body and helps to reduce allergic reactions to food.”

Small, black nigella seeds are a confusing spice to many people because of the many names they go by. In India they are known as kalonji and in the United States they are called charnushka. They are also frequently (and mistakenly) called black onion seeds, black cumin and black caraway. However, they have no relationship to cumin, caraway or onions (apart from flavour), and are very much their own spice.

Finally, they are easily grown in your own garden.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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