Charnushka means “black seed” in Russian, which translates to chernishke in Yiddish and schwarzkummel in German.
The rare spice is known by many names. It’s also referred to as nigella seed, black seed, black onion seed, onion seed, black caraway seed, black cumin, roman coriander, calonji, or kalonji. Despite having various names, the flavor of Charnushka is not similar to onion, cumin, coriander, or caraway seeds.
Charnushka is deep black seeds with a sharp flavor and strong aroma. It has a broad flavor profile that is peppery but also a little sweet, slightly bitter, smoky, and nutty, with similarities to thyme and a touch of licorice.
It is a versatile and flexible spice that can be used in many dishes. You’ll find that different flavors stand out depending on your pairings in each dish. It’s a great spice to have in your spice rack to bring a subtle but different flavor to your cooking. And many people believe there are health benefits of eating black seeds.
Grind the black seeds for dry cooking, such as roasting, to get a sweet aroma similar to black sesame paste and a more intense flavor.
Spice specialty stores carry Charnushka, Nigella Sativa. If you want to order it online, try Penzey’s.
If you’re unable to get Nigella Sativa by any of its names (charnushka, black caraway seed, black cumin, kalonji, etc.), you can try a substitute for nigella seeds that will provide a similar flavor and texture:
Not much is known about the history of Nigella Sativa, although it likely that it has been used since ancient times for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Charnushka is commonly used in European, Indian (kalonji or calonji), Israeli (chernishke), Lebanese, Armenian, Egyptian, Middle Eastern (nigella), Polish, Serbian, German (schwarzkummel) and Russian (charnushka) cooking.
Nigella sativa and black seed oil have been studied for its possible medicinal benefits for a variety of ailments, and is also believed to be an insect repellant.
Nigella Sativa is the small black seed of a very unique looking flower from a plant from the Ranunculacae family. Wild versions of the plant grow in Turkey, Syria and Northern Iraq. The plant grows easily in Mediterranean climates. The flowers are pale blue or white and bloom in the spring.