One of the oldest spices known to be used, nigella seeds (n. sativa) were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb and are mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament, although their use is not clear. The tiny black seeds have a slightly bitter taste with some of the pungency of onion, but also offer many other subtle nuances of flavour. Once you are familiar with the taste, the black dots add interest as a finishing touch to plain rice and to vegetables, especially such sweet ones as carrots and parsnips. They can also be used in salad dressings and are especially good on a simple, onion-free tomato salad. They add interest to all egg dishes as a sprinkle, from poached and boiled to scrambled and fried, and are good with cheese and cheese dishes, too.
For more profound flavours, dry roast the seeds before use.