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Black Cumin: One of Life's Tiny Treasures

Packed with health and flavor, black cumin's small, triangular seed graces the garden with vivid blossoms.

| October/November 2003



Recipes:

Sidebar: A Seed of Many Names 

In the black seed is the medicine for every disease except death.
—Arab proverb 

Perhaps you've enjoyed its flowers in the garden, but have you indulged in its flavor in the kitchen or realized the potential health benefits of black seed or black cumin? This annual herb is cultivated in India, Bangladesh, Turkey, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean basin and has been used through the ages for culinary and medicinal purposes. For centuries, black seed has been used in the Middle East and Asia for its medicinal properties, but its use isn't limited to that area. You'll find references to it in the Bible, and the seeds used ground as a seasoning like pepper in many culinary creations. Now scientists have isolated some of its compounds and are gaining a better understanding of these traditional uses.



Identity Crisis

The angular seeds look like kissing cousins of onion seeds and black poppy because of their color and similar fruit capsule. Black cumin also has been mistaken for the umbellifers caraway, fennel and coriander because of its leaf shape, and it also resembles common or Indian cumin (Cuminum nigrum and C. cyminu). Botanically, however, black cumin, a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculus, is unrelated to these plants.

The Nigella Family

The three most important varieties of black cumin are:



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