Ajwain: Carom Seeds

Ajwain, pronounced like uj-wine, is a "seed" often used in Indian cuisine. Ajwain is an annual herb and the leaves and fruit of the plant, often called seeds, are used for cooking. The seeds are pale khaki, oval in shape and look like a smaller version of the cumin seeds. They are very fragrant, they smell a bit like thyme (because it contains thymol); its bitter taste, however, is similar to oregano and anise.

Ajwain is also known as carom seeds or weeds of bishops.

Cooking with Ajwain

Ajwain is sold mainly in the form of seeds, as it is rarely used, as always, as a powder in Indian cuisine. If you ever need the powder form, it is advisable to buy the seeds and grind them at home as needed.

In Indian cuisine, Ajwain is often part of the tadka on a plate. Tadka, or tempered, is a cooking method in which the oil or butter (most often ghee) is heated until it is very hot and the whole spices are added and fried, creating what is called chaunk. It is used in small quantities and cooked is almost always used. This is due to its strong and dominant taste. This mixture of oil and spices is then incorporated into lentil dishes, or added as a finishing touch or adorned with a dish.

Ajwain is also used in vegetable dishes (for its distinctive flavor) and pickles (for its preservative qualities). In Afghanistan, seeds are used to bake breads and cookies and sprayed on top.

Healing with Ajwain

Like coriander, cumin and fennel, Ajwain belongs to the Apiaceae family of plants. When distilled, Ajwain produces thymol. It has been used for centuries as a medicinal ingredient in Ayurveda, the Hindu medicine system that believes in the balance of the body. Here are some ways in which Ajwain can alleviate certain health ailments.

As a digestive Chew alone or with a little sugar to make it more palatable in its raw form. (Ajwain also has properties that help reduce the effect of beans that cause flatulence).

As a cure for diarrhea, dysentery and indigestion. Boil a cup of water with 1 tablespoon of Ajwain until the water is reduced to half its original volume. Drink this water benefits of Carom Seeds (ajwain),

To relieve the symptoms of a cold, such as a stuffed nose. Add 1 tablespoon of Ajwain to a bowl of boiling water and inhale the steam.

To relieve rheumatic pain. Ajwain oil should be applied on the affected part of the body.