Raw ajwain fruits have a very strong thyme
-like flavour, since they have a greater concentration of thymol. When dried, the flavour is milder, but still has a hot kick that can leave your tongue numb.
Since ajwain is part of the spice family that also boasts of cumin, caraway, fennel
, it's very easily mistaken in appearance to one of these spices; however, the flavour is very different and unusual.
Ajwain has been variously described as fruity, "spicy," hot and with a sweet, pleasant aftertaste.
Ajwain, or carom is a common spice in the Indian pantry, and is consumed both raw and cooked. It has a distinctive smoky taste when cooked and is used mainly to flavour vegetarian dishes, particularly dishes from the west coast state of Gujarat. Ajwain is a very powerful spice, and can easily take over a dish with its strong, oily aroma, which is why it needs to be used with caution, added a little at a time, until the flavours are just balanced.
In Indian cooking, ajwain is mainly used to flavour pastries and breads like samosa shells, parathas (flaky flatbreads) and rotis. It's also used as a seasoning for potato curries and as a tempering for dals and pakoras. The spice is also chewed whole with fennel and small sugar cubes after a heavy meal as a digestive aid and a mouth freshener.
Ajwain has been used since ancient times for its health properties, thanks to the high concentration of thymol. In Ayurveda, ajwain seeds are crushed and used as parts of pills as remedies for everything from heartburn and digestive problems to kidney and lung problems. Ground ajwain is mixed into a paste to make poultices for skin issues like acne and for arthritis. The seeds are also steeped in milk or other liquids and used as a breast milk enhancer for nursing mothers. It's also used as an aphrodisiac.
Ajwain is also used in the herbal cosmetic industry, particularly in toothpaste, acne medications and perfumes. It's also used as a fungicide.
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