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Step-by-Step Guide to Grow Black Cumin (Kalonji)

Black cumin, or Nigella sativa, is an annual plant in the Ranunculaceae family that is grown for its spicy seeds, which are used as a spice and in herbal medicine. Other names for black cumin include black seed, black caraway, Roman coriander, kalonji, or fennel flower. Read to know the method to grow this beneficial crop.

Sonali Behera
Dried seed of black cumin is used in food, flavor, medicine and seed oil
Dried seed of black cumin is used in food, flavor, medicine and seed oil

Taxonomical Classification

Botanical Name: Nigella sativa

Family: Ranunculales


The dried seed of black cumin, which is used in food, flavor, medicine, and seed oil for the pharmaceutical and fragrance industries, has its origins in the Mediterranean region and travels via west Asia to reach north India. Its superior medical benefit is attested to in several religions and ancient writings from over 2000 years ago.

History of Black Cumin:

Since the dawn of human society, it has been grown or utilized. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Hebrew literature all refer to black cumin as a spice and a component of herbal treatments.

King Tutankhamun's tomb included a bottle of black cumin oil, suggesting that it was used extensively in ancient Egyptian rituals. It is typically used as a garnish on bread and vegetable curry dishes in India. It is employed as phanchphorn in Bengal for a variety of vegetable recipes. It is a crucial spice that is employed nationwide in the manufacturing of pickles.


In the northern plains throughout the winter, black cumin is grown as a winter-season crop. An ideal temperature range for sowing is between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. Early development stages benefit from cold temperatures, but crop maturity and seed generation require warm, sunny conditions.

Seed Depth Sowing:

Black cumin seeds should be put in a good soil mixture at a depth of between 8 and 10 inches. Each seed should be buried about 1/8 inch beneath the top soil layer. To ensure sufficient development until the plant is ripe for harvest, space each seed 4 to 6 inches apart.

When feasible, you should plant your black cumin seeds outside after the final winter heavy freeze. For optimal results, all seeds should be sown in fertile soil that is exposed to sunlight.

When to Sow: 

The black cumin seeds will grow the best if they are sown immediately following the winter's final hard frost. This will ensure that they germinate and become harvestable two to three months later.

Indoor/Outdoor Seeding:

When feasible, black cumin should be sown outdoors on soil with a pH balance between 6.0 and 7.0. To ensure the proper pH balance is achieved, each seed should be placed 8 to 10 inches deep in the soil, and the soil should all be properly worked two to three months before planting.

Plant Width & Height:

When completely developed, the black cumin plant will measure between 20 and 60 cm (8 and 24 inches) in height and between 2-4 inches in width.

Weed Control

In India, the black cumin crop is planted in the winter rabi season. In the field, weeds with broad and thin leaves are abundant.


For proper germination, mild irrigation can be used right after planting if the soil's moisture level is insufficient at the time of sowing. Depending on the climate and the state of the soil, further irrigation should be applied every 15 to 25 days.

Harvesting and yield

After seeding, the crop matures 135 to 150 days later. When the seed has reached complete maturity in the capsule and has fully become brown or black, it should be harvested. The seeds may break if harvesting is delayed. One hectare of land may produce 5 to 10 quintals of seeds on average. By rubbing plants together or pounding sticks, the seeds are separated. The seeds are then dried and winnowed.


The seeds of black cumin can be used to obtain essential oil. The essential oil found in the seeds, which is utilized in the culinary, flavoring, and medicinal sectors, ranges from 0.5 to 1.6%. Seeds are crushed and then steam-distilled to extract the oil. A volatile oil with a distinct odor that is yellowish-brown in color is then formed.

Nigellone, a carboxyl molecule, is a crucial component with both therapeutic and preservation properties. According to reports, the fatty oil produced by extracting the seed can be consumed. About 31% of the reddish-brown, semi-drying oil was obtained after benzene extraction and subsequent steam distillation of the extract to remove the volatile oil.

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