Kingdom : Plantae
(unranked) : Angiosperms
(unranked) : Eudicots
(unranked) : Asterids
Order : Apiales
Family : Apiaceae
Genus : Trachyspermum
Species : T. ammi
Binomial name : Trachyspermum ammi
Synonyms : Ammi copticum L.
Carum copticum (L.)
Trachyspermum ammi, commonly known as ajowan, bishop's weed, ajwain, ajowan caraway, carom seeds, or thymol seeds, is a plant of India and the Near East whose seeds are used as a spice.
The plant has a similarity to parsley. Because of their seed-like appearance, the fruit pods are sometimes called seeds; they are egg-shaped and grayish in colour.
Ajwain is often confused with lovage seed; even some dictionaries mistakenly state ajwain comes from the lovage plant.
Flavour and aroma
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. 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 parantha, called ajwain ka parantha.
The essential oil (2.5 to 5% in the dried fruits) is dominated by thymol (2-isopropyl-5-methylphenol, 35 to 60%); furthermore, α-pinene, p-cymene, limonene and γ-terpinene have been found.
In the essential oil distilled from aerial parts (flowers, leaves) of ajwain grown in Algeria, however, isothymol (50%) was found to be the dominant constituent before p-cymene, thymol, limonene and γ-terpinene. Note, however, that the name isothymol is not well defined and might refer to both 2-isopropyl-4-methylphenol and 3-isopropyl-6-methylphenol (carvacrol). (Journal of Essential Oil Research, 15, 39, 2003)
From South Indian ajwain fruits, almost pure thymol has been isolated (98%), but the leaf oil was found to be composed of monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids: 43% cadinene, 11% longifolene, 5% thymol, 3% camphor and others.
Eastern Mediterranean, maybe Egypt
The main cultivation areas today are Persia and India, but the spice is of little importance in global trade.
Ajwain originated in the Middle East, possibly in Egypt and the Indian subcontinent, but also in Iran and Afghanistan. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in berbere, a spice mixture favored in Eritrea and Ethiopia.
In India, the major ajwain producing states are Rajasthan and Gujarat, where Rajasthan produces about 90% of India's total production.
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). It is also part of the Bihari and Nepali variant of panch phoran .
The strong aroma is enhanced by toasting or frying and goes well with potatoes or fish. Legumes (lentils, beans) are, however, the most important field of application; in India, where these vegetables are popular since they provide a source of protein to the many vegetarians, they are commonly flavoured with a perfumed butter or vegetable oil (tarka also rendered tadka) . This seemingly simple preparation is much more sophisticated than sheer heat treatment, since most aroma compounds in spices are lipophilic and dissolve much better in fat than in water. Thus, frying in butter not only enhances the fragrance because of the high temperature, but also extracts the flavour to the fat, whence it can be dispersed throughout the food efficiently. That techique is often generally known as baghar , and it forms almost the heart of North Indian cooking .
A typical recipe for lentils would run as follows: First, the dried and washed lentils are cooked until tender with turmeric being the only spice added. This lentil puree is then flavoured using salt and the tadka: Cumin, chiles and/or ajwain seeds are fried until they turn brown and evolve a strong aroma; if desired, garlic or asafetida and possibly grated ginger are added and after some more frying the tadka is poured over the cooked lentils. Variants may also employ dill fruits, nigella seeds or celery fruits, although the latter are not very Indian.
In Southern Indian cuisine (which has a large treasure of vegetarian recipes), tadka-like preparations are not only applied to dried legumes, but also to green vegetables and boiled rice. Most popular for this purpose are black mustard seeds which are fried until they stop popping and curry leaves, which are fried for but a few seconds. Besides clarified butter, coconut fat is common.
In some parts of India, ajwain is is used for specific types of salty pastry, e. g., the Rajasthani biscuits called mathari . In Ladakh pastry and in Nepal nimki are flavoured by ajawain .
Outside of the Indian subcontinent, ajwain is not much used. It enjoys, however, some popularity in the Arabic world and is found in berbere, a spice mixture of Ethiopia which both shows Indian and Arabic heritage .
Ajwain is much used as a medical plant in Ayurvedic medicine (India). Mainly, it helps against diseases of the digestive tract and fever. In India, where any amount of tap water can result in arbitrary complications, ajwain often comes to the traveller’s rescue: Just chew one spoonful of the fruits for a few minutes and wash down with hot water. In the West, thymol is used in medicines against cough and throat irritation.
A Good Warm Ajwain Drink
To brew this ajwain tisane, mix 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds, a small piece of cinnamon stick and 1/4 teaspoon of ajwain seeds into a small teapot. Cover with boiling water and steep for at least five minutes. Strain the tea into a cup and sweeten if desired. This ajwain tea is considered a general tonic and is particularly good if you have a cold.
Ajwain oil, Ajwain Terepene oil is exacted by steam distillation of the crushed seeds of Ajowan. Ajwain oil is the oil distilled from the ajwain (Carum copticum) seeds. These seeds used to make ajowan oil are small and like caraway. Ajowan oil is mainly cultivated in Persia and India. Ajowan oil is a major source
of thymol which gives ajowan oil its medical virtues. It is cultivated in black soil particularly along the riverbank throughout India and also Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan. It is a small, erect, annual shrub with soft fine hairs. The fruits are minute, egg shaped and grayish. Ajwain is pungent and bitter in taste and have spasmodic, germicidal, antiseptic, digestive, antipyretic, expectorant and tonic properties.
It is also traditionally known as a digestive aid, a relief for abdominal discomfort due to indigestion and an antiseptic. In southern parts of India, dry ajwain seeds are powdered and soaked in milk, which is then filtered and fed to babies. Many assume it relieves colic in babies, and for children it also improves digestion and appetite. Ajwain can be used as digestive mixture in large animals. In India, it is often added to heavy fried dishes to aid digestion.
A study conducted using the essential oil suggests that it has some use in the treatment of intestinal dysbiosis. Its benefit comes from being able to inhibit the growth of undesired pathogens while not adversely affecting the beneficial flora.
Ajwain will grow in zones 3-10. In colder areas it will behave as an annual. If you have a warm aviary or a greenhouse, you should be able to keep ajwain from year to year even in the cold north land.
New plants are started by dividing the older plant in the early spring while the ajwain is still dormant. Ajwain will grow in sun, part sun, and even in a great deal of shade. It requires little care while it grows and grows and grows. Plant it in some restricted area like between the house and a nearby sidewalk to keep it from taking over the yard.
Ajawain green leaves can be used as green vegetable in cooking. This is a rare treat.
Cultivation Methods of Ajwain
The seeds of this crop are used as spices. Ajwain has many medicinal properties. It is widely used in traditional house hold remedies.
This plant grows well in India and is largely cultivated in eastern India. The crop can be grown on wide variety of soil from heavy clay to elite loams. Ajwain is very sensitive to water logging and need good drainage. Ajwain is tolerant to drought. The best time for sowing of this crop is early august month.
The seeds are sown directly in the field. The seeds take 8 to 10 days to geminate. Thinning should be carried out when the plant gets a height of 20 to 25 cm. 1.5kg of seeds per hectare is required for sowing.
Farm Yard manure – 25 tones
Double Superphosphate – 30kg
Muriate of Potash – 30kg
These are incorporated into the soil. Urea is applied in three equal split doses. First at the time of sowing, then subsequently two doses being at an interval of 30 days.
The plant requires about 120 to 140 days for maturity. When seeds turn full brownish the whole plant can be uprooted. The whole plants are then tied in small bundles and tacked for drying and then threshed.
Drying Ajwain Seeds
To dry ajwain, following steps can be followed:
Allow the flower heads to dry and form seed.
When the seed is loose and beginning to fall, clip the flower heads into a clean container.
Break the seeds away from the flower structure. The flower leavings are good for the chicken yard or the compost bin.
Pick through the seeds removing any stems or garden refuse.
Spread the seeds out in a single layer in a clean container like a cooky sheet. Allow the ajwain seed to dry for another week in a warm, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Store the ajwain in a glass container with a snug-fitting lid. Keep in a cool cabinet or in the refrigerator to maintain the freshness of your ajwain seed.
Home Remedies with the help of Ajwain
1. A plaster made of Ajwain seeds crushed and used to relieve pain of Colic.
2. A teaspoon full of the Ajwain seeds with a little rock salt is a common domestic remedy for indigestion from irregular diet.
3. Ajwain seeds are famous for asthma sufferers, small seeds are smoked in a pipe to relieve shortness of breath.
Benefits of Ajwain/Carom
Uses of ajwain in traditional medicine form an endless list. Ajwain has been used as a cure-all for centuries. Ancient Greeks used ajwain in medications. It is still held in high regard in Ayrvedic medicine. Ajwain interest is growing and it is no wonder when you consider the many uses such as:
A water distilled from the ajwain seeds is kept as a household cure in many countries for treating flatulence, indigestion and poor appetite.
Breathing the smoke from burning the ajwain seed or inhaling the steam from boiling them in water is used to relieve toothache.
Inhaling the ajwain steam is also used to treat a runny nose, flu symptoms, any nasal congestion.
Wrapping ajwain powder in a thin cloth and smelling it frequently is also used to treat cold symptoms as well as those of migraines.
As it contains thymol, ajwain qualifies as an anti-fungal and an antibacterial. Actually, in the early 20th century this thymol was used as an anticeptic in surgery.
Cigarettes made from the ajwain seed are smoked by some people suffering from respiratory problems like asthma.
The seeds are made into poultices to relieve arthritis.
A teaspoon of ground ajwain added to a cup of boiling water is allowed to cool and is used as a gargle for sore throats.
Ajwain was and is still used as a breath freshener.