Nigella Sativa is a spice with many names in different cultures and countries. It is most commonly known as black caraway seeds, kalonji, and black cumin seeds.
For centuries, Nigella has been used by the Romans for culinary purposes and by the Asians for their medicinal purposes. These seeds are famous for their tendency of repelling insects and providing several health benefits.
What Is Nigella Sativa?
No one can undermine the beauty of spices and herbs when they are thriving in their natural habitats. The same goes for kalonji seeds, whose plant can be found happily growing in turkey, India, and Syria. Its colorful and vibrant flowers range from white to light blue in color with little skinny leaves.
These gorgeous flowers are loaded with the seed-carrying pods, which are also known as 'black cumin fruit.' The nigella seeds or black cumin seeds are matte black and are small in size with a rough texture and surface.
When cut in half (which is quite hard to achieve owing to their size), they have an oily white interior. They are triangular in shape and are loaded with health benefits.
The Nigella Plant And Its Harvesting
The nigella plant belongs to the buttercup family and usually reaches a height of 2 feet. Its leaves are threadlike and are generally grayish-green in color. The flowers are whitish-blue with five petals each. They contain a seed capsule that has five compartments. These compartments are dried and then opened up to release the seeds.
The nigella sativa is an annually growing plant with fragile flowers that bloom in July. Nigella's fruit is in the form of a large seed capsule that contains white seeds. When exposed to air, the seeds turn black.
In September, the fruit matures, and its capsules are carefully collected. Then they are dried and crushed gently so that the seeds can be gathered. Nigella sativa plant grows in western Asia, Egypt, India, and the Middle East.
What Do Nigella Sativa Seeds Taste And Smell Like?
There is no doubt that kalonji tops the list of the most confusing spices. It is referred to with several names, including fennel flower and black caraway seeds. Speaking of smell, they boast a savory aroma which they heartily impart in the meals they are cooked in.
The taste of these wondrous black cumin seeds differs from one person to another. All in all, these tiny black seeds have a distinct smell and flavor that include notes of black pepper, oregano, and onion. Some even find its taste to be nutty.
Nigella seeds also flaunt the taste qualities of oregano and have a warm and bitter flavor. This wide range of characteristics is a reason why these savory seeds are incorporated in various dishes and snacks.
How Can You Use Nigella Seeds?
When it comes to using nigella black cumin seeds, the options are plenty. These healthy seeds are primarily used in Pakistani, Indian, North African, and Middle Eastern cuisines and can sometimes be found in European dishes as a substitute for black pepper.
You can expect to find kalonji in lentils and curries, and they pair exceptionally well with vegetable dishes. Several South Asian stir-fried meals incorporate Nigella seeds as a garnish. It is also commonly used while making pastries and bread. It is common in India and Pakistan to mix nigella seeds in the dough before making roti or naan.
The wonders of nigella seeds don't stop here; it is also a part of 'paanch poran,' which is a Bengali spice. It can also be added to salads, bread, rice, you name it.
How To Buy And Store Black Cumin Seeds?
If you are on the hunt for kalonji, where should you expect to find them? You can buy them from any health food store or any ethnic Indian/ Pakistani grocery store. You can always buy them online but make sure you are buying from an authentic site with good reviews.
- You should keep in mind to purchase them in a small amount. A little amount goes a very long way.
- Also, remember to always look at the pack closely. The color of the seeds should be entirely black, without any traces of grey or white.
When storing, if the seeds were not in an airtight jar or container, store them in a container with an airtight lid. Put the container containing the seeds away from heat and sunlight.
Ensure that the area is dry and cool. As black cumin seeds have a strong aroma, make sure the lid is tight so that the seeds remain fresh. When stored properly, your batch of nigella seeds should last you over a year.
Health Benefits Of Nigella Seeds
Kalonji ranks at the top among the healing foods due to the tons of health benefits it boasts. Here are some of the top benefits.
- Loaded with antioxidants: There are several compounds present in kalonji seeds that boast strong antioxidant properties. Research has also proven that its black seed oil works as an effective antioxidant.
- Cancer-fighting properties: As kalonji seeds are high in antioxidants, they also help to neutralize free radicals that may cause diseases such as cancer.
- Best for asthma, cough, and allergies: Nigella seeds are an effective natural cure for people who suffer from asthma, nasal congestion, and cold symptoms. Simply boil a teaspoon of these seeds in a cup of water. By inhaling the vapors, you can naturally decongest your lungs.
Prevents diabetes: One of the best medicinal uses of nigella seeds is that it helps to prevent diabetes.
No matter what you prefer to call kalonji or Nigella seeds, they are, without a doubt, a powerhouse of flavor and nutrients. Owing to their culinary uses and health benefits, make sure you add this wondrous spice to your pantry to enjoy flavorful food and health perks.