Main uses in food processing

The dried seeds are the only commercially important product and the essential oil is of minor importance. Nigella seeds are used in India and the Middle East as a spice and condiment and occasionally in Europe as both a pepper substitute and a spice. They are widely used in Indian cuisines, particularly in mildly braised lamb dishes such as korma. Nigella is also added to vegetable and dhal (lentil) dishes as well as in chutneys. The seeds are sprinkled on to naan bread before baking. Nigella is an ingredient of some garam masalas and is one of the five spices inpanchphoran. This famous Bengali origin spice mix consists of equal parts of five spices such as cumin, fennel, mustard, fenugreek and Nigella seeds mixed together without roasting or grinding. In the Middle East Nigella is added to bread dough and is an essential constituent of the Middle East choereg rolls. The dried seeds of Nigella are the major commercial product being used in foods, pickles, baked goods, confectionery, pharmaceutical and perfumery industry. Owing to preservative qualities, the seeds of Nigella have been used as a spice from ancient times in the preparation of pickles, and seeds are scattered between folds of linen and wool to stop insect attack. The major processed products from Nigella seed are Nigella oil and fixed oils.

Nigella essential oil can be extracted from the crushed seeds by the steam-distillation method. The two kinds of oils, essential oil (volatile oil) and non-volatile fatty oils, are extracted. Nigella seed contains 0.5% volatile oil and about 31% of the fatty oil also called fixed oil. The essential oil is yellowish-brown in colour and has an unpleasant odour. The fatty oil obtained by the expression of seeds is reported to be used for edible purposes. Extraction with benzene and subsequent steam distillation of the extract to remove the volatile yields the fixed oil. Nigella oleoresin can also be prepared but is not popular due to its low commercial value. Nigella has its use in folk medicines in India and Greece, as explained below. Nigella seed, powder and oil are used as adjuncts for flavouring foods, as preservative in confectioneries and in the pharmaceutical industry. Nigella oils are used as a stabilizing agents for edible fats (Pruthi, 2001). Every Indian house uses Nigella seeds as a preservative in different types of homemade pickles.

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