English Name: Black Cumin / Black Caraway / Wild Onion Seeds
Common Indian Name (Hindi) : Kalonji / kalaunji
- Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to Southwest Asia.
- There is a lot of confusion about the names of this spice. It is referred by a multitude of names which, in other sources, might mean something else entirely. In some English sources it is called as Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Black Seed, Melanthion, Roman Coriander, Wild Onion Seed, or Black Onion Seed. But there is no botanical relation between Nigella and any of the spices like black cumin or caraway or onion seeds.
- Nigella seeds are small, matte-black grains with rough surface and an oily interior. They are roughly triangular. They are slightly bitter with a crunchy texture.
- Seeds may be used whole or ground and are usually fried and roasted before use.
- They are similar to onion seeds.
- The seeds are sprinkled on to Naan (leavened, oven baked flatbread) before baking. Nigella is an ingredient of some garam masala and is one of the five spices in panch phoran. In the Middle East Nigella is added to bread dough.
- Nigella is used in Indian medicine as a carminative and stimulant and is used against indigestion and bowel complaints. In India it is used to induce post-natal uterine contraction and promote lactation. The seed yields a volatile oil containing melanthin, nigilline, damascene and tannin. Melanthin is toxic in large dosages and Niugelline is paralytic, so this spice must be used in moderation.