A short shrub with bright yellow flowers that pop like a cheerful floral sunburst is the best description one can give of the niger seed plant.
The botanical name for this is Guizotia abyssinica as is mentioned on Wikipedia. The niger seed grows much like the sunflower seed . The shape too resembles that of the sunflower seeds but it is not as well known in the urban food dictionary.
The niger seed is actually popular in those communities who are familiar with the idea of a plant based wild pharmacy.It has been documented as an ancient ingredient which has found prominence in tribal medical treatments and therapies.It is commonly used for massages which help with respiratory ailments like asthma, wheezing and bronchitis. The tribal elders also use it for skin ailments. In addition this oil is beneficial for the heart and for liver function.
Niger seed oil is not specific to the Indian subcontinent. It is found in many countries which have native cultures and tribes who practice traditional medicine.The applications are relatively the same; for medicinal use.
In India it is also known as the Ram til oil. The seeds are in shades of black and are much larger than the miniscule (in comparison) sesame seeds.
The name Niger seed does lead to it being often confused with the nigella seed or kalonji. The Niger seed is very different and is not used directly in food preparations.
The Niger seed oil when used carefully is perfect for a quick tadka or a stir fry. When using oils of this nature, care must be taken to ensure that high heat is not applied.The oil is also not meant for lengthy cooking processes which requires it to be heated over a prolonged period of time. This is not something one can use for slow cooking processes.
A chutney tempering is recommended as it is a quick heating of ingredients which go into the main dish. This cooking technique does not heat the oil in a way which changes its molecular structure.
Check out this Moong Dal Khichdi recipe for a power-packed tadka at the end using Niger seed oil!
The presence of healthy fatty acids in this oil adds to its contribution to overall health.
Using a native ingredient in a way which benefits the working of the body is also a part of the local and seasonal path which leads to long term benefits for the body.
It is said that the niger seed oil can also be used for frying as long as the temperature of the oil is kept below smoking point. The presence of oleic acid in the niger seed oil compares it to the goodness of sunflower seed and safflower oils.
At Two Brothers Organic Farms India , the search never stops. We are constantly seeking and educating ourselves about heritage ingredients which were used by our ancestors. In turn these ingredients contributed to a rich biodiversity which sustained local plant and animal life. The choices we make as humans therefore have a direct impact on the health of the ecosystem.
Sourcing the niger seeds ,grown organically , to make cold pressed oil involves learning a new process and the way to do it in the right manner. The source for this treasured information comes from the tribal elders who live in harmony with their surroundings.
By gathering heritage food education and documenting the same we are preserving the wealth of the planet which in turn sustains life as we know it.