For many centuries, various spices have been used for their distinctive taste, aroma, and healing powers. Out of the massive brigade of spices available, Ajwain, which is also popularly known as carom seeds (Ajwain in English), has mainly been used in Pakistan and India.
A simple naan's flavor gets elevated by adding a pinch of Ajwain in its dough before cooking it. Besides sprucing up any dish's taste and providing us flavorful food, carom seeds have many health benefits too as they top the charts of healing foods.
What Is Ajwain?
Ajwain is a tiny seed-like fruit mostly used in Pakistani and Indian spice blends and various dishes. It resembles cumin seeds and fennel in appearance and has a strong aroma, which seems pretty similar to thyme.
Taste-wise, however, it resembles anise and oregano owing to its strong and bitter notes. This is why when it comes to ajwain seeds, a little bit definitely goes a long way.
Ajwain is mostly grown in Iran and India and is hardly ever eaten raw. Like its fellow cousins cumin, fennel, and coriander, Ajwain is a member of the Apiaceae plant family. The shrubs' leaves have a feather-like appearance, and the plant's fruits are mostly called seeds. These seeds are relatively rigid in appearance, and their color is a pale khaki-ish.
Ajwain has been a part of cooking since ancient times and is an integral ingredient in African, Middle Eastern, Pakistani and Indian Cuisines.
History Of Ajwain
There is very little information available regarding Ajwain's history and origin. Carom seeds are believed to have taken its roots in Persia, Asia Minor, and Seychelles. Other than these areas, there isn't much known about its history. According to common belief, Ajwain grew in ancient Egypt, where it was mostly used for medicinal purposes.
When it made its way into the Subcontinent, the spice was primarily a significant part of Ayurvedic medicine, thanks to the many ajwain benefits. However, it has successfully made its way in various cultures as an efficient medicinal ingredient, including traditional Chinese medicine.
What Does Ajwain Taste Like?
So what exactly do these tiny aromatic seeds taste like? Like thyme, ajwain seeds also contain thymol, which is why it has similar notes.
However, Ajwain takes the taste game up a bit by combining its minty earthy taste with the bitter taste similar to oregano and the licorice hint of star anise. This is why carom seeds deliver a punch of freshness and a strong statement that makes the spice shine bright, among other spices.
How To Select The Best Carom Seeds?
When on the hunt for Ajwain, how do you ensure you get the best ajwain seeds that will deliver the best taste and aroma? Simply follow these amazing tips, and you are bound to get your hands on the best batch:
- For starters, make sure you read the label with full concentration. Carom seeds resemble caraway seeds and cumin seeds, so make sure you choose the right one.
- As their aroma is pretty strong, you can quickly get an idea about their smell even through their packet. They should have a fresh and strong scent.
- Color also plays a crucial role in determining your seed's quality. Make sure they have a darkish brown color without any lumps.
- You always have the option of buying them in a tin, pack, or jar. If you opt for buying loose Ajwain, remember to store them properly in an airtight container or jar to preserve their quality and scent.
- You might have trouble getting your hands on Ajwain in your local grocery store. The best place to look for them is in any Indian/ Pakistani grocery store or online.
How To Cook With Ajwain?
How exactly is this strong and intense spice used in cooking endeavors? Owing to its dominating and strong flavor, carom seeds are used in minimal amounts and are mostly cooked. In Indian/Pakistani dishes, Ajwain is used mainly for applying 'tarka' to any dish such as lentils or curries.
You might be wondering what in the world a 'tarka' is. It is a cooking method in which ghee, butter, or oil is heated to a very high temperature. Then onions, garlic, and whole spices are added and fried. Then this oil mixture is used as a final garnishing tool for the desired dish.
Ajwain uses are not limited to tarka; you can always add it raw when cooking a high-fat meal. If the recipe you are following requires you to use powdered Ajwain, you will first have to dry roast the seeds. Once they have cooled down, you can grind them to a powder.
Did you know that Ajwain also has several health benefits? Let's look at ajwain benefits in detail:
- Relieves toothache, earache, and headache: Ajwain contains thymol, which is known for its pain-relieving tendencies and also obstruct the growth of fungi and bacteria.
To relieve headaches and migraines, apply crushed Ajwain to your temples. To help with an earache, carom seed oil should be applied to the outer ear. For a toothache, gargle with carom seeds soaked water (ajwain water) for at least 3-4 times every day.
- Helps With Digestion: The spice is loaded with active enzymes that help to give the digestive functions a much-needed boost. Ajwain has digestive juices that help avoid cramping and bloating while also helping to relieve constipation.
Helps Fight Allergies And Asthma: Ajwain has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds that offer relief from respiratory issues and sore throat. You can chew on carom seeds to clear and decongest your nose.
So, now you know the benefits of Ajwain and the taste and aroma it provides.
Ajwain is one magical spice that has it all. Loaded with distinct flavor and aroma, it adds an instant punch to any dish that it is incorporated into. Whether you are using ajwain seeds for its cooking benefits or you want to get the best of its healing powers, Ajwain is one spice that will never disappoint you.