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Black Onion

Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to southwest Asia. It grows to 20 to 30cm tall, with finely divided, linear (but not thread-like) leaves. The flowers are delicate, and usually coloured pale blue and white, with 5 to 10 petals. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of 3 to 7 united follicles, each containing numerous seeds, roughly triangular in shape and 1 to 3mm long. Despite being used since antiquity by Asian herbalists and pharmacists for medicinal purposes, nigella seeds were first used for culinary purposes by the Romans. The seeds have little odour but develop a scent similar to that of oregano when ground or chewed. The taste is nutty, earthy and peppery. It helps to toast the seeds before using them in order to bring out their flavour. Nigella seeds are widely used in Indian cuisine, particularly in mildly braised dishes such as korma. The seeds are used in the preparation of garam masalas and are one of the five spices in the Indian spice mixture, panch phoron. They are added to vegetable and dhal dishes as well as in chutneys. The seeds are traditionally sprinkled on naan breads before baking.

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