Nigella seeds have little aroma but when rubbed give off a peppery smell with hints of oregano. The taste is nutty, earthy, and herb-like with hints of oregano or carrot. Nigella is a seed spice from a herbaceous annual of the buttercup family. The triangular seeds are held in a seed head similar to a poppy head.


  • Culinary uses: Nigella is one of the five spices in Bengali five spice (panch phoron) which gives a distinctive taste to pulses and vegetable dishes. It is also used in pilafs, kormas, curries, and pickles. The seeds are often dry roasted or fried to bring out their full flavour. In the Middle East nigella seeds are sprinkled over breads and cakes, and in Iran it is a popular pickling spice for fruit and vegetables.
  • Other uses: Nigella has been used for centuries by Indian herbalists and doctors as a stimulant and in the treatment of flatulence, indigestion, and bowel disorders.
  • Historical uses: Nigella seeds were used in Roman times and for centuries they have been used in India for cooking as well as by herbalists.

In an airtight container nigella seeds will keep their flavour for up to 2 years.

  • Botanical name: Nigella sativa ▪ Family name: Ranunculaceae
  • Native range: Western Asia, Southern Europe
  • Major producers: India, Southern Europe
  • Harvesting: The seed capsules are gathered as they ripen but before they burst, then dried and lightly crushed so the seeds can be removed easily.

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