Ajwain, commonly known as ajowan, bishop’s weed, ajowan caraway, carom seeds, or thymol seeds, is a plant of India, Pakistan and the Near East whose seeds are used as a spice. This beneficial herb is used in culinary process as spice as well as a major ingredient of different kind of medicines. Ajwain seeds are small in size but taste hot, penchant and bitter. It acts as good appetizer, laxative and stomachic. It is used as effective remedy in managing ailments like vomiting, mouth diseases, pile, treatment of ascites, abdominal tumor, abdominal pain etc. They are strongly pungent and aromatic. Ajwain seeds are rich in fibre, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. Ajwain seeds consist of moisture, protein, fat, minerals, fibre, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. The active principles in the ajwain may help increase the digestive function of the intestinal tract by increasing gut juices.
Store the seeds in an airtight container and place in cool dark place away from sunlight, and humidity. In India, the spice seeds are particularly added to make bread (chapatti) known as ajwain paratha. Some Indian vegetarian bean/lentil and chicken/fish curries contain this spice and it is also used to flavour meat and rice dishes. The culinary uses of ajwain seeds in Indian cooking also include being added to vegetable dishes for their distinctive taste. They are also used in pickles. They are also used to flavour drinks, soups and sauces. Ajwain is often part of the ‘Tadka’ in a dish. 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. Ajwain has properties that help it reduce the flatulence causing effect of beans. It also aids in digestion. To relieve symptoms like blocked nose, etc., of a cold, add 1 tablespoon of Ajwain to a bowl of boiling water and inhale the steam.
Ajwain compliments dals, breads and root vegetables. Ajwain is an assertive, distinct spice. It pulls those flavours from their familiar grounds and combines them into something utterly new. Most ajwain today comes from India, and is widely used in a variety of dishes there. It acts as a strong contrasting element in simmered vegetables, beans, lentils, and breads. Its unique bite is a great way to add complexity and interest to the aromatic base of a curry. Vegetables that tend towards slight bitterness are improved by its inclusion. Even a small amount of raw ajwain will completely dominate the flavour of a dish. In Indian cuisine ajwain is usually used by dry roasting it first on a pan, this greatly enhances its flavour. While cooking the fried dishes like Pakora, samosa and bread pakora, ajwain is always added in the batter , this helps to digest them properly. The invigorating flavour and amazing aroma of fresh carom leaves dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried is hard to resist and you are sure to reach out for more.