|Flowers of Trachyspermum ammi|
Ajwain, ajowan (//), or Trachyspermum ammi—also known as ajowan caraway, bishop’s weed, or carom—is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae). Both the leaves and the seed‑like fruit (often mistakenly called seeds) of the plant are consumed by humans. The name “bishop’s weed” also is a common name for other plants. The “seed” (i.e., the fruit) is often confused with lovage “seed”.
Ajwain’s small, oval-shaped, seed-like fruits are pale brown schizocarps, which resemble the seeds of other plants in the Apiaceae family such as caraway, cumin and fennel. They have a bitter and pungent taste, with a flavor similar to anise and oregano. They smell almost exactly like thyme because they also contain thymol, but they are more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as being somewhat bitter and pungent. Even a small number of fruits tends to dominate the flavor of a dish.
Cultivation and production
The fruits are rarely eaten raw; they are commonly dry-roasted or fried in ghee (clarified butter). This allows the spice to develop a more subtle and complex aroma. In Indian cuisine, it is often part of a chaunk, a mixture of spices fried in oil or butter, which is used to flavor lentil dishes. It is widely used in South Asian cuisines like Indian and Pakistani cuisine as well, and it is also an important ingredient for herbal medicine practiced there. In Afghanistan, the fruits are sprinkled over bread and biscuits.
The leaves of Plectranthus amboinicus, sometimes called “Indian borage”, are also occasionally called “ajwain leaves”, with the plant itself sometimes called the ajwain plant; the leaves are used to make popular dishes such as chutneys and pakoras. It should not be confused with the true ajwain plant, which is used for its fruits and whose leaves may or may not be edible.[clarification needed]
Uses in traditional medicine
Ajwain is used in traditional Ayurveda primarily for stomach disorders such as indigestion, bloating, fatigue, abdominal pain, flatulence, diarrhea, and colic. along with respiratory distress and loss of appetite. In Siddha medicine, the crushed fruits are applied externally as a poultice.
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- ITIS entry for Trachyspermum ammi
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- Ajwain from The Encyclopedia of Spices