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Carom Seeds

English Name:                                        Carom, Ajwain, Ajowan

Hindi Name:                                        Ajvan

Sanskrit Name:                                        Yavanaka

Latin Name:                                        Trachyspermum ammi

Plant Family:                                        Apiaceae/Umbellifae

Part of Plant Used:                                        Fruit, although frequently mislabeled as seeds.

Plant Description:                                        A small erect branched shrub that grows to around 40cm tall. It has many branches of stems, each with many feathery leaves. White flowers and fruit October to March. The fruits are tiny (2mm), grey and ridged in appearance.

Characteristics:                                        It is ‘lipophilic’ which, in English, means that it dissolves better in fat than in water. For this reason, when it is used for cooking in India, it is usually fried in ghee which both enhances the flavour due to the high temperature, and absorbs all of the flavour and allows it to diffuse throughout the dish. In India, they love to use it in lentil dishes, and frying as above then stirring through a lentil dish imparts a wonderful, distinct flavour. Just the smell of Ajwain will always remind me of the delicious savoury biscuits flavoured with it that many of my cousins seem to enjoy making.

Aroma:                                        Musty, reminiscent of thyme (although stronger and less subtle), for good reason – see below, points of interest, its character also lies between anise and oregano. It has quite a kick if eaten raw, but it is usually roasted or fried which leads to it having milder more complex qualities.

History:                                        It is thought to originate in Egypt, before travelling to India during the Greek conquest of Asia.

Points of Interest:                                        It is now nowhere more popular and widely grown than India, where it is revered as much for its medicinal qualities as the flavour it imparts when cooked. Much of this is down to its thymol content – this is also found in thyme and the reason that the two of them share aromatic qualities. The essential oil extracted from it by steaming is also used in perfumes.

Ayurvedic Properties:                                         Cooling for Vata and Kapha, warming for Pitta. It has antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, germicidal, stimulant, stomachic and tonic actions. It is can be used to relieve gas, treat coughs, cold, flu, asthma, colic, cholera, indigestion, arthritis, menstrual cramping, depression, abdominal tumours, kidney and liver problems and rheumatism. The roots as well as the fruits are used in the Ayurveda.Energetics: hot-pungent-bitter

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