Black cumin, Roman coriander
(Nigella sativa – Family Ranunculaceae)
Black cumin is a name which can indicate either a rare, dark variety of true cumin or, more commonly, a spice consisting of the seeds of Nigella sativa, native to the Levant, but cultivated in many parts of the world. In spite of the name, it does not resemble true cumin in taste. Black cumin is related to love-in-the-mist (N. damascena), whose seeds are also used as a condiment. Although cultivated to a small extent in India, black cumin is mainly gathered from wild plants in forests. The seeds are small, dull black, almost wedge-shaped, and pungent. They are often labelled ‘onion seeds’, reflecting another common misconception. Adding its name to the list of confusion, black caraway is sometimes used when referring to black cumin. Whatever the name, the seeds are often used as a condiment, particularly in Germany, France, India, and Asia. In eastern countries, they are used for seasoning curries and other dishes. The Egyptians spread them on bread or put them into cakes. They are particularly prized as a spice in cooking in Italy and the south of France.