Guizotia abyssinica is an erect, stout, branched annual herb, grown for its edible oil and seed. Its cultivation originated in the Ethiopian highlands, and has spread to other parts of Ethiopia. Common names include: noog/nug (Ethio-Semitic ኑግ nūg); niger, nyger, nyjer, or Niger seed; ramtil or ramtilla; inga seed; and blackseed, khursani in marathi Gujitil in Assamese
Seed and commercial cultivation
The seed, technically a fruit called an achene, is often sold as birdseed as it is a favourite of finches, especially the Goldfinch and the Greenfinch. In the birdseed market, Nyjer is often sold or referred to as thistle seed. This is a misnomer resulting from early marketing of the seed as "thistle" to take advantage of the finches' preference for thistle.
The Wild Bird Feeding Industry (WBFI) has trademarked the name Nyjer so as not to confuse it with the less desirable thistle seed.
In 1982 the USDA ordered that imported Niger seed must be heat sterilized to kill the contaminant dodder seed. This treatment, however, was insufficient to kill seeds of other Federal noxious weeds, including Asphodelus fistulosus (onion weed), Digitaria spp. (includes African couchgrass), Oryza spp. (red rice), Paspalum scrobiculatum (kodo millet), Prosopis spp. (includes mesquites), Solanum viarum (tropical soda apple), Striga spp. (witchweed), and Urochloa panicoides (liver-seed grass). In 2001 a new treatment required that imported Niger seed must be heat treated at 120 °C (248 °F) for 15 minutes.
In 2002 the "EarlyBird" variety of Guizotia abyssinica with a crop maturity of 65 days was developed and adapted to grow in the United States. The "EarlyBird" variety of Guizotia abyssinica is protected by U.S.D.A. Plant Variety Protection Certificate Number 9900412. A second variety of Guizotia abyssinica submitted to the U.S.D.A. for Plant Variety Protection (Application Number 200500140) called "Earlybird 50" has a crop maturity of 50 days and is a shorter, more dense plant with a higher yield and is less susceptible to lodging than the "EarlyBird" variety. Both varieties have short enough maturities to make production feasible in many U.S. growing regions. Guizotia abyssinica is not a Federal noxious weed and is now in commercial agricultural production in the United States often grown as a first or second crop before or after wheat, corn, soybeans, and cucurbits. Niger is self-sterile and requires bees for cross pollination.
Culinary and medicinal uses
Niger seeds are also used in human consumption in southern parts of India. In Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Niger seeds (called valisalu/valasulu in Telugu, uchellu/gurellu in Kannada, and Karale in Marathi) are used to make a dry chutney which is used as an accompaniment with breads (Chapathi). They are also used as a spice in some curries. In Ethiopia, an infusion made from roasted and ground Niger seeds, sugar and water, is used in treating common colds.
A paste or gruel made from ground Niger seed, mixed with ground flaxseeds (Amharic: talvah), is traditionally used in Ethiopia in treating leather.
- Plants for a Future database
- Multilingual taxonomic information from the University of Melbourne
- James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops (unpublished)
- Nigerseed: Specialty Grain Opportunity for Midwestern US
- Ethiopian Plant Names By Aberra Molla
- Dressler, S.; Schmidt, M. & Zizka, G. (2014). "Guizotia scabra". African plants – a Photo Guide. Frankfurt/Main: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg.