Ajowan (Trachyspermum ammi) seed is also known as Ajwain seed, Bishop's Weed, Ethiopian Cumin, Omam, or Carom and is a popular spice in southern Indian style cooking. It has a flavour faintly reminiscent of thyme; a similarity due to the presence of the essential oil thymol in both species.
The plant is mainly cultivated in modern Iran and in Northern India. Rajasthan produced about 55% of India's total output in 2006 apparently.
Ajowan seeds are used in Asian cooking, breads, biscuits, savoury pastries, and especially in bean dishes. This spice closely resembles the Lovage seed. The greyish-green seeds are striped and curved (similar to cumin or caraway seeds in appearance) and are often to be found with a fine silk stalk attached. The seeds are frequently chewed on their own for their medicinal value, tasting bitingly hot and bitter and leaving the tongue numb for a while. Cooking Ajowan mellows it somewhat,. The fruit seeds are rarely eaten raw except for medicinal purposes so they are most commonly dry roasted to release their fragrance and oil which mellows them or they are fried in ghee ( clarified butter) This allows the spice to develop a more subtle and complex set of aromas. In traditional Indian cuisine Ajowan is often part of a tadka which is a mixture of spices fried in oil or butter, which is then used to add flavour to lentil dishes. In Northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan the seeds are sprinkled over bread and biscuits. Be prudent if experimenting with them as a small amount goes a long, long way and too much can completely overwhelm your final dish.
Here's a cough remedy using Ajowan seed that I have tried and found firstly effective and secondly delicious...
Ajowan Milk Cough Remedy
This drink helps soothe a sore throat and lift a chesty cough.
Half a teaspoon of Ajowan seed 2 teaspoons of sugar or honey is better and to taste A very generous pinch ( half a teaspoon of turmeric) I mug of milk
Heat the milk as if you were making a hot milky drink and dissolve the sugar or homey in the warm mixture. Dry roast the Ajowan seed in a separate pan. You will smell the thymol being released as the seeds brown but be careful not to burn them - you are just lightly dry roasting them. Add the turmeric powder and stior together with the dry roasted ajowan seed for a minute or so.
Ajowan seeds contain an essential oil which is about 50% thymol which is a strong germicide, anti-spasmodic and fungicide, the principal medicinal use of the seed. It is an antiflatulent (a polite way of saying that it helps you to pass wind) because it helps reduce the gas produced by our guts when eating legumes (something this editor can testify to!) . Thymol is also used in toothpaste and perfumery. It is used in a steeped liquid form against diarrhoea and flatulence.
In India the seeds are used as a household remedy for indigestion and colic and general upset stomach or intestinal cramps. The seeds are crushed and then used in poultices to relieve asthma and arthritis. It also has a reputation as possessing aphrodisiac properties and the Ananga Ranga prescribes it for increasing a husband's enjoyment in his middle years!
Ajowan Seed - Is it an Indian Thyme? I am David Hugonin, owner and founder of Luminescents and The Natural Herbalist, one of Europe's most trusted suppliers of oils and raw herbal material