Today, we are going to show you the differences between several seeds that are often confused with one another due to similar names and similar appearance.
The unfortunate truth is that any seed that is black in color can be called “black seed.” This leads to massive confusion when trying to identify specific seeds that are black in color. However, there is now consensus that only ONE seed, Nigella sativa, is officially called “Black Seed.” Sorry all other black-colored seeds. 😉
Let’s start by clearing up some of the confusion over common names, and two specific seeds: Black Seed and Cumin.
#1 Black Seed (Nigella sativa)
Other names: black cumin, black sesame, black caraway, kalonji, roman coriander, nigella
In addition to these numerous common names, Black Seed is sometimes mistakenly called “black onion seed!” A Google image search for “onion seeds” brings up a picture of Black Seed (Nigella sativa) first, which then links to an Amazon listing for Nigella sativa that is CALLED “black onion seeds.”
When retailers improperly list the names of seeds, it just adds to the confusion. But YOU will know the difference after reading this article!
It’s incredibly important to be informed when purchasing “Black Seed” as true Nigella sativa contains the amazing benefits so many people are looking for, while black-colored onion seeds should simply be used to grow onions!
#2 Cumin Seed (Cuminum cyminum)
Cumin! We all know this one, right? The humble cumin seed, well-known in kitchens around the world.
The cumin seed doesn’t go by any name other than cumin, but because #1 Black Seed (Nigella sativa) is sometimes called “Black Cumin Seed,” sometimes people think they are related. They are not!
#3 Royal Cumin (Bunium persicum)
Other names: black cumin, black caraway, kala jeera, shahi jeera, saah jeera, black zeera
This variety of cumin is darker and sweeter than ordinary cumin (Cumin cyminum). Also, where cumin is oval-shaped, plump, and straight. Royal Cumin is is oblong, curved like a half-moon, dark, and skinny.
The name “royal” comes from the word “shyahi,” which means “black.” This word “shyahi” got changed to “shahi” which means “royal.” Thus, this seed went from being called “shyahi” (black) cumin to “shahi” (royal) cumin.
#4 Caraway (Carum carvi)
Caraway is sometimes called meridian fennel or Persian fennel, and because of the way it looks, it is often confused with both fennel and cumin. Sometimes it’s even called “black cumin.”
#5 Black Sesame Seed (Sesamum indicum)
Black sesame seeds are roughly the same length as Black Seed (Nigella sativa), but they are flatter and shaped like a two-sided tear drop, whereas the Black Seed is distinctly three-sided and shaped like the wedge of a lemon or an orange.
#6 Onion Seed
For the life of me, I don’t know why a retailer wholesaler would knowingly label anything as onion seed other than seeds that grow onions! Yet, it happens, and often Black Seed (Nigella sativa) is labeled as “black onion seed.”
But black onion seeds are just black-colored seeds that grow onions. In fact, there are many varieties of onions that produce black-colored seeds.
From a distance, black onion seeds can be visually confused with Black Seed (Nigella sativa), just like black sesame seeds, but up close, they are mostly flat and papery—very nearly like the seeds of any sweet or spicy peppers. Think of how the seeds of a bell pepper look. They are round, flat, papery and cream-colored. True onion seeds are nearly the same, just smaller and black in color. They look similar to Black Seed (Nigella sativa), but as if the seed had been dehydrated or all the insides sucked out of it.
Buy Organic Black Seed (Nigella Sativa)
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Thank you very much for the differentiation ,i have been buying the so called nigella sativa when in fact i have only been given black onion seeds ,which is somehow a rip of from many retailers who are comfusing this seeds dont know by error or purposely.
thank you so much. i was wondering why i dont get any health benefits for years. now i know. please could we have bigger and individual seed pics of the nigella sativa, onion seed, and black sesame seed. ie. the black coloured seeds. thank you so much.
Thank you. I’ve been taking the wrong black seeds. I’ve been eating black sesame seeds. When I take the black seed oil, I can’t hold it down, it comes back up, and the flavor is yucky.
Thanks a lot. Coming from Slovakia where caraway seeds are used almost everyday, I see a lot of Indian chefs use wrong terms for bunium persicum and carum carvi. I guess by the term kala or shahi jeera they mean royal cumin and NOT caraway. I believe shahi jeera is commonly used in India while caraway is not (so much).
This article was very helpful! Thank you!
Would the Real Black Seed… Please stand up.
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