Other names: Ajowan, Ajwan, Ajwain carom, carum, bishop's weed
Appearance: The seeds have an olive green to brown color and are similar to cumin or caraway seeds in appearance, though easily differentiated by their oval shape and small size. They come from a small annual shrub with many branches of small feather-like leaves.
Typically used: Whole
Origin: Ajwain is thought to have originated in the Asia minor or Persia regions, and spread to India from there. It is now grown along river banks throughout the Middle East, as well as India and North Africa.
Flavor: This seed adds balance to both sweet and savory foods with its somewhat minty flavor. The flavor profile is therefore somewhat herbaceous, as well as savory and slightly bitter. The taste of the ajwain seed could also be described as bitter and pungent - reminiscent of anise and oregano.
Aroma: Due to containing the essential oil thymol, ajwain seeds smell like thyme, however ajwain seeds are much more aromatic.
Culinary uses: Ajwain is commonly used in baked goods, breads, vegetables, beans and more. In the Middle East, the spice is used in both meat and rice dishes. In India, the spice is paired with other spices in the Indian spice mix, baghaar, which is fried in oil to flavor lentil dishes, as well as added to breads, like ajwain paratha. Seeds are typically dry-roasted or fried in ghee. To protect the essential oils in ajwain seeds, and therefore their strong taste, it is best to grind the seeds just before use and add the spice in the final stages of cooking.
Never worry about serving bland meals when you add ajwain seeds into the mix. These seeds provide great zest that will take your meals to the next level!