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Ajwain

Carom, Ajowan, or Bishop's weed

Trachyspermum ammi

Raw ajwain smells and tastes like thyme or caraway, only stronger because it too contains thymol. You will find it more aromatic and less subtle as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Even in small amounts, raw ajwain will completely dominate the flavor of a dish. In Indian cuisine, ajwain usually either dry-roasted or fried in ghee or oil and almost never used raw. This develops a much more subtle and complex aroma, still similar to caraway but "brighter". Among other things, it is used for making a type of paratha, called 'ajwain ka paratha'.

The strong aroma of ajwain is enhanced by toasting or frying and goes well with potatoes or fish. In India, legumes (lentils, beans) are popular since they provide a much needed source of protein to the many vegetarians and are commonly flavoured with a (tadka or tarka) - perfumed butter frequently containing ajwain. Tadka or Tempering is a cooking method in which cooking oil is heated till very hot and whole spices are added to it and fried. This oil and spice mix is then added as a final touch or garnish to the dish. Often, the Tadka or tarka can be made with ghee, clarified butter, or coconut fat and is a mixture of spices, usually cumin, dill and ajwain seeds; fried until they turn brown and develop a strong aroma. Then garlic or asafetida and possibly grated ginger are added. In Southern Indian cuisine, these tadka-like preparations are not only applied to dried legumes, but also to green vegetables and boiled rice.

Ajwain Seeds
In Indian cuisines, ajwain seeds are used either dry roasted or fried in ghee or oil, which has a subtle aroma ... available at www.IndianBlend.com

In everyday cooking, ajwain is usually used as tea to flavour breads, biscuits, cookies and other baked products and commonly in many Indian savouries throughout the country. The oil from the ajwain seed is used to treat various problems topically like arthritis and joint pains, ear aches and teeth sensitivities.

The ajwain seed has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medication for centuries to treat digestive and gastric problems in adults and to treat respiratory and bronchial problems in infants and young children.

Ajwain is one of those spices that are very often confused with other plants, examples: (celery, lovage, nigella) and even nonculinary plants (goutweed, toothpickweed).
Ajwain is not very common in our days; its usage is almost confined to Central Asia and Northern India, particularly the North West (Punjab, Gujarat) but Ajwain has found some popularity in the Arabic world and is found in berbere, a spice mixture of Ethiopia which both shows Indian and Arabic heritage.

Like coriander, cumin and fennel, Ajwain belongs to the Apiaceae family of plants. When distilled, Ajwain produces Thymol and has been used for ages as a medicinal ingredient in Ayurveda!

Medicinal Uses

  • As a digestive. Chew by itself or with a little sugar to make it more palatable in its raw form
  • As a cure for diarrhoea, dysentry and indigestion. Boil a cup of water with 1 tbsp of Ajwain till the water is reduced to half its original volume. Drink this water.
  • To relieve cold symptoms (like blocked nose, etc). Add 1 tbsp of Ajwain to a bowl of boiling water and inhale the steam.
  • To ease rheumatic pain. Ajwain oil must be applied on affected part of body.