How to grow Black Caraway Seeds

Sowing Black Caraway (aka Nigella sativa): 
Sow seeds in spring through summer and in autumn.For continuous seed production it is best to sow Nigella sativa seeds successionally. Sow once a month from just before the last frost of spring until late summer, and then once again towards the end of autumn for earlier crops in spring, this will result in a prolonged blooming period.

Nigella seeds can be sown indoors early in the year for transplanting to the garden once temperatures rise in spring. They can be sown directly where they are to grow in spring through to autumn.

Ideally Nigella should be grown in a sunny part of the garden that has good drainage. They prefer well drained soil enriched with manure or compost ahead of planting, but will grow in most sites and soils and can be grown on light sandy soils.

Sowing Black Caraway Indoors:
As a Hardy Annual, Nigella can be sown in autumn, August to September or in late winter, February to March for an earlier flowering next year. Sow either directly as below in mild or sheltered areas or, for overwintering sow in pots.

Use small pots containing moist seed compost and cover with a very fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. Overwinter plants in cool, light, frost-free conditions before planting out about 20cm (8in) apart the following spring.

Sowing Direct:
Prepare the ground well and rake to a fine tilth before sowing. Mark the sowing areas with a ring of light coloured sand and label if sowing more than one variety in the same bed. Sow thinly, once temperatures reach around 15°C.

Seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days. The seedlings will appear in rows 6 to 8 weeks after planting and can be told from nearby weed seedlings quite easily. Thin the seedlings out so they are finally 20cm apart. Compost should be kept slightly moist, but not wet at all times.

Sow from spring through to late summer. An autumn sowing can also be made in sheltered areas for earlier flowers the following year. Planted it in the autumn it will send down a taproot and form a rosette of feathery leaves during the winter. As temperatures warm up in spring, flower stalks shoot up.

Feeding is rarely needed but organic plant food (comfrey or nettle tea) can be applied as growth begins in the spring. If it's a dry spring, give the plants water and they will grow large and erect. Without water the plants tend to flop over.

At the end of the season a few plants can be left to die down and self-seed. Others can be pulled up, the seed harvest and plants composted.

Harvesting Nigella Sativa Seeds:
Seeds can be harvested from late summer and stored for use throughout the year. Harvest by placing the pods in a paper bag; allow to dry out completely, then rub the paper bag in your hands to release the black seeds. Next cut the corner of the bag and retrieve the seeds with use of a sieve. Ensure that the black seeds are completely dry then store in an airtight container.

Storing Nigella Sativa Seeds:
While that spice rack adjacent to the stove may be convenient for storage and access, it can prematurely destroy the potency of your harvest. Store seeds in the freezer, since exposure to light and heat releases the spice's volatile oils, which, in turn, removes the sought-after fragrance in any spice.



Read the most frequently asked questions about Nigella Sativa seeds

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