'Odesa Market' Nigella ("Black Seed")
'Odesa Market' Nigella ("Black Seed")
'Odesa Market' Nigella ("Black Seed")
'Odesa Market' Nigella ("Black Seed")
'Odesa Market' Nigella ("Black Seed")

'Odesa Market' Nigella ("Black Seed")

Regular price $4.25 Sale

Nigella sativa

Origin: Odesa, Ukraine

Improvement status: Landrace

Seeds per packet: ~40


Life cycle: Annual

EFN INTRODUCTION. We are beyond excited to be offering these nigella seeds for the first time. Also called black seed, kalonji, charnushka, or (erroneously) black cumin, black caraway, or black onion, this plant is one of the most popular herbal medicines around the world — and only getting more popular. It has been studied extensively by medical researchers and found to possess a wide spectrum of biological activities, including as an anticancer and immunomodulatory agent, diuretic, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, analgesic, anthelmintic, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, renal protective, and antioxidant. People use the seeds against a wide range of ailments including asthma, bronchitis, diarrhea, rheumatism, skin disorders, indigestion, loss of appetite, lactation difficulties, menstrual problems, and immune deficiency. 

Many people consume a small amount of nigella seeds every day as a general tonic, and so they have found their way in small quantities into a wide range of foods. They are included as a flavoring additive in many culturally important foods, including halvah, cheeses (like the brined Nabulsi cheese from Nablus in Palestine and the braided string cheese from Armenia), breads (often alongside sesame seeds, particularly in Central Asia), as well as various pickled products. The seeds are also lightly toasted, ground, and added to honey then eaten as-is or used as an ingredient in desserts.

While most widely grown in the Middle East, this variety, a local type collected in Odesa, Ukraine, in 1986, seems to be well adapted to North America — but it is not without its challenges. Here's an account from EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman of growing this special crop:

"These seeds represent a major victory for me on the farm this year [2023]... As loyal readers know, my Jewish great-grandparents fled Odesa in 1905. Over the past two growing seasons I've been getting to know a few crops from Odesa preserved by the USDA (including a calendula we also offer in the catalogue). It's been a powerful experience, allowing me to forge a new connection with long-lost relatives and encouraging me to dig deeper into my family history (resulting in some heavy revelations, detailed in the calendula write-up).

I tried growing these last year [2022] but started them too late and probably in the wrong place. I ended up with just a couple small seed pods on two stunted plants. This year I got them in early (they prefer getting started in cool weather), planted them in the former goat-pen garden (with very rich soil), and then just stood back and watched. The plants ended up loaded with fat pods full of beautiful, fragrant seeds."

Many seed companies — including EFN — sell the primarily ornamental Nigella cousins known as "love-in-a-mist" (and we're sure you'll find Nigella sativa to be similarly beautiful to behold!), but few are selling Nigella sativa, and even fewer have a local variety or landrace. We are grateful to be able to offer this one to you today!

GROWING TIPS: Start indoors a few weeks before last frost. Surface sow or cover just lightly in soil or growing medium. In cooler areas, may be direct-seeded, but the young plants start out quite small and might get lost among weeds. Plant out after last frost. Harvest seeds when pods are dry and tan.