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Wednesday, November 2, 2016


The Flower on the Package of the Seeds
Photo from: Lord-Williams
agenuz (agenuz comun, ajenuz, alcaravea negro, arañuela), comino negro, L. Nigella sativa, Ar. kamûn aswad, shûnîz, habbatul baraka (the Blessed Seed), sumiz al-qamb (black wheat), Fr. nigelle cultivée, nigelle de Crète, Eng. nigella seed, black cumin, black seed. A genus of this plant is confused with numerous black seeds, including the fennel-flower, black caraway, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, Russian caraway, fennel flower and fetch (Biblical). Due to all the incorrect seeds defined as this aromatic spice, infinite confusion has occurred. Black caraway, used in Jewish rye bread and black onion seed do not even belong to this plant family.

Actually, nigella seed is a native of Syria, of the buttercup order and is not related to fennel in anyway. It grows in some areas of southern Europe and sporadically in the rest of the world such as Africa and from central Asia to India. In northern India, it is known as kalonji.

The stiff, erect stem of the plant branches off bearing grayish-green leaves and blue flowers, which are followed by toothed seed vessels, housing three-cornered, deep black or brown seeds. They are convex on one side and flat on the other. They look like sesame seeds except for the color. Inside they are oleaginous and white, containing a strong, aromatic smell, like nutmeg. They have a unique pungent, spicy taste. When ground they take on scent vaguely like peppery oregano or a nutty smell like a cross between the poppy and pepper. They are spicier and bitterer than pepper but this has been used as a substitute. There is no mistaking the seed with any other.

Although Avenzoar claims nigella was little known in the 12th C., the Anón Al-Andalus from the 13th C shows that it was a common ingredient in garum and murri. It was called for in other recipes for fortification. The seeds were fried with cheese and other ingredients. In spite of translation discrepancies, it is claimed that it is mentioned in Isaiah 28 as “fitches:” “. . . for the fitches are not thrashed with a threshing instrument but the fitches are beaten out with a staff.”

Negilla Seeds
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Prior to usage in food, they are fried or dry roasted to enhance the taste. Turks and others have flavored their bread with the seed, which gives it a bitter taste. Egyptians, believing them fattening, sprinkle them on cakes and bread-like comfits. Ethiopians put them in alcoholic drinks. In Iran they are used to flavor meat dishes and in the eastern Orient the seeds are used to season sauces and food dishes. Indians use it frequently in vegetable dishes, especially those of gourds and eggplant. Further, those in Bangladesh, Sikkim, and West Bengal use them in a mixture of spices called panch phoron (five spices), also containing fenugreek, cumin, fennel and black mustard seed.

Indians place the seeds in linens to keep insects away. Others, to protect woolens, place seeds on clothes to keep the moths away. The Muslims revere the plant as expressed by their proverb: “in the black seed is the medicine for every disease except death.” The seeds seem to be used for everything from anti-carcinogenic activity to tumors in the abdomen, liver and eyes, tertian fever, paralysis, hydrophobia, piles, cancer and snakebites. For centuries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the seeds have been used as traditional medicine to improve health in general, for respiratory conditions including coughing, asthma and bronchitis, intestinal and stomach complaints, liver and kidney ailments and the immune and circulatory support systems in particular. Large quantities of the seeds have been used to provoke abortions. To increase the milk flow, lower classes use the oils from the seed as a galactagogue. The Lebanese think it good for liver diseases. Indians use it as a stimulant, diaphoretic and emmenagogue and as a carminative for indigestion and bowel complaints. Combined with astringents, it has been used for dysentery and diarrhea. For headache, orchitis, nasal ulcers, the seeds are ground and mixed with flour and externally applied to the affected areas. Over 200 studies have been made since 1959, which confirm the effective use of this medicine over the last 1400 years.

2. species of conger eel with a black loin.

Over did it with the chickpeas
but puréed were most tasty!
Photo by: Lord-Williams
[Anón/Huici.1966:488:267-268:528:286: etc.; Bolens. 1990:193; Delgado. 1985:163; ES: Dulley. 2002; and ES: Porcher. Dec 6, 02; Font. 1999:116:212-214]

See aceite de ajenuz published October 13, 2010 in blog titled aceites varios and blog titled estómago published June 4, 2014 for the Anón/Al-Andalus’ recipe 528 which is a paste to fortify the stomach.


1 c chickpeas
1/2 lb swiss chard
1 c almond paste[1]
1 lb beef cubed
1 tbsp murri[2]
1 c ground walnuts


1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ginger.


Soak chickpeas overnight. Wash and drain. Cook and macerate.

Simply Hummy!
The nigella gives it something special
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Wash, chop and boil chard in water.

Make almond paste. Put it in an earthenware pot and melt it.

Select meat and cube it. Seal it in the almond paste.

Add chickpeas, Swiss chard, murri and ground walnuts. If necessary add one cup of water  to make the mixture smooth.

Mix well, ladle out and garnish.  

[1] The recipe says "almond oil." Until melted it looks like almond butter. This is made by peeling1 c almonds, and dry them. Put them into a blender and grind. When almonds start adhering to the sides of the blender stop it and push them down into the bottom. Do this several times until thoroughly blended and a smooth paste is formed. Add ¼  c olive oil if a smoother paste is desired. Continue blending until well mixed. Store in an airtight container until ready to use or up to two weeks.

[2] Make a murri by grinding 1 tbsp wheat flour, ¼ tsp ground nigella, ¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper and 1 tbsp lavender with ¼ c water.


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