|Flowers of Trachyspermum ammi|
Ajwain, ajowan (//), or Trachyspermum ammi—also known as Ajowan caraway, Oomam (ஓமம்) in Tamil, bishop's weed, or carom—is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae). It originated in India. Both the leaves and the seed-like fruit (often mistakenly called seeds) of the plant are consumed by humans. The plant is also called bishop's weed, but this is a common name it shares with some 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 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. In Afghanistan, the fruits are sprinkled over bread and biscuits.
Uses in traditional medicine
Ajwain is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine primarily for stomach disorders such as indigestion, flatulence, diarrhea and colic. In Tamil it is called oomam (ஓமம்) and in Telugu it is known as vaamu (వాము); in Siddha medicine, it is used as a cleanser, detox, and antacid. In general, the crushed fruits are applied externally as a poultice.
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- ITIS entry for Trachyspermum ammi
- definition of ajowan in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)
- "Trachyspermum ammi". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
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- Ajwain from The Encyclopedia of Spices