Ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi)
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Ajwain (also known as carom seeds or bishop’s weed), is an uncommon spice except in certain areas of Asia. It is the small seed-like fruit of the Bishop’s Weed plant, (Trachyspermum ammi syn. Carum copticum), egg-shaped and grayish in colour. The plant has a similarity to parsley. Because of their seed-like appearance, the fruit pods are sometimes called ajwain seeds or bishop’s weed seeds.
Ajwain is often confused with lovage seed; even some dictionaries mistakenly state that ajwain comes from the lovage plant. Ajwain is also called ‘owa’ in Marathi, ‘vaamu’ in Telugu and “omam” in Tamil.
Raw ajwain smells almost exactly like thyme because it also contains thymol, but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. It tastes like thyme or caraway, only stronger. Even a small amount of raw ajwain will completely dominate the flavor of a dish.
In Indian cuisine, ajwain is almost never used raw, but either dry-roasted or fried in ghee or oil. This develops a much more subtle and complex aroma, somewhat similar to caraway but “brighter”. Among other things, it is used for making a type of paratha, called ‘ajwain ka paratha’. Essential oils such as Ajowan oil should be used properly. To further inform users of essential oil safety, Liberty Natural Products provides material safety data sheet’s (MSDS) for ajowan oil, along with many other essential oils, at Liberty Natural Products MSDS sheets
Ajwain originated in the Middle East, possibly in Egypt. It is now primarily grown and used in the Indian Subcontinent, but also in Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in berbere, an Eritrean and Ethiopian spice mixture.
It reduces flatulence caused by beans when it is cooked with beans. It may be used as a substitute for cumin as well. It is also traditionally known as a digestive aid and an antiemetic.