Category Archives: Spice

Black onion seed in Malvik

A first for my garden and something I hadn’t thought was possible until a couple of years ago. I harvested black onion seed for the first time this autumn.

These are the seeds of Nigella sativa (also known as black caraway, black cumin, nigella, kalojeere, siyah daneh or kalonji; Norwegian: legesvartkarve / svartfrø) are probably best known in Western Europe as a spice used in particular on Indian naan bread. It’s also ground as part of a 5-seed spice mix (panch phoron) used in Bangladesh, Eastern India and Nepal, together with fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard and fennel in about equal parts. They are also used in the Middle East, for example in Armenian String Cheese (see and, in Palestine, the seeds are ground into qizha paste, first soaked in salt water overnight, then roasted in an oven, and dried in the sun before grinding!
I tried growing Nigella sativa in 2008 when I still had a greenhouse. I germinated seed in a spice packet, but even in the greenhouse there was no yield. Then two years ago, a member of KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers), Hildur Hauksdóttir of the Domkirkodden Herb Garden in Hamar, Norway offered seed of Nigella sativa through our yearbook! She reported that they grew well in Hamar (which is a little north of Oslo).
I obtained seed from Hildur and, now, have harvested seed for the first time outside without protection although they were started indoors.!
There a reportedly some 22 known varieties in India, the second biggest producer (6 mill. ha), behind Turkey at 8 mill. ha.  (a small amount is grown in the US).
I guess Hildur’s seed were a hardier variety than the seed I used in the past  and I will now offer these to other members of KVANN!

Although the flowers aren’t as large as other Nigella species such as ornamental Love-in-a-mist (which can also be used) it is still quite pretty in flower!

Seed pods
Young seedlings

Golpar ready to use

Cleaned this year’s golpar harvest, my favourite spice…used in a range of dishes, see here:

Real golpar is the ground seed of Heracleum persicum (Tromsøpalme), an important spice in Iran. I use a mix of wild and cultivated species of Heracleum (hogweeds): H. sibiricum, H. maximum, H. sphondylium…and naturalised H. persicum

Broad beans, falafels, new potatoes and golpar

Today I harvested the year’s first broad beans at the Væres Venner Community Garden where KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) are developing a garden:

I also harvested the first potatoes at home…and the year’s first falafels resulted with new potatoes for dinner. The falafels were flavoured with salt, pepper, shallots, chili and golpar (ground seed of any species of Heracleum or hogweed) which gives a delicious exotic flavour!

Heracleum sibiricum gives the local variant of golpar here…most people have a local variety of hogweed to harvest, even Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) or Tromso palm (H. persicum), the latter giving the most authentic Iranian golpar spice.


Epazote (sitronmelde) used to be called Chenopodium ambrosioides, but has been renamed Dysphania ambrosioides…
It’s a short-lived perennial which can be overwintered in a cool room, resprouting from the roots in spring… It has an “interesting” smell which is reminiscent of turpentine 
I must use it more…
From Wikipedia: “Although it is traditionally used with black beans for flavor and its supposed carminative properties (less gas), it is also sometimes used to flavor other traditional Mexican dishes as well: it can be used to season quesadillas and sopes (especially those containing huitlacoche), soups, mole de olla, tamales with cheese and chili peppers, chilaquiles, eggs and potatoes and enchiladas. It is often used as an herb in white fried rice and an important ingredient for making the green salsa for chilaquiles.”

P1780939 P1780940

Harvesting golpar

Heracleum persicum is a giant umbellifer, very closely related to Giant Hogweed another very closely related invasive of more southerly latitudes. We call it Tromsøpalme here as these giant plants might resemble palm trees from afar where they grow in large quantities in the arctic city of Tromsø. I today harvested seed of one last plant remaining after the kommune had strimmed a small coastline stand of this plant, presumably spreading seed everywhere….
The seed is used as an important spice in Iran, something I learned from my friend Saideh Salamati who I credited in my book (she also made an excellent dish of the young shoots at a gathering of foragers here in June). I nowadays use more golpar in my cooking than any other spice…delicious and free!

Soba with stir-fried Golpared veggies

The veggies: Allium senescens x nutans hybrid onions, Malva moschata (musk mallow), Broad bean tops, Atriplex hortensis “Rubra” (red orach), Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle), chili, puff balls, Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete / rødskrubb), piggsopp/hedgehog fungus and at the top young parsnip roots (thinnings)
Heracleum maximum is the North American Cow Parsnip…
Heracleum maximum is the North American Cow Parsnip…

I made soba with stir-fried golpared veggies and wild fungi for tonight’s dinner. Soba is buckwheat noodles. Golpar is the Turkish spice usually made from the ground seed of Heracleum persicum (Tromsøpalme). To me the taste of “golpar” made with different Heracleum species isn’t very different. Tonight I used Heracleum maximum seeds fresh harvested from the garden to spice the stir-fry (instead of cumin which I used to use).

Harvested cow parsnip seed heads




Harvested cow parsnip seed heads


Cow parsnip seed


Ground cow parsnip seed