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Ajwain (carom seeds) nutrition facts

trongly pungent and aromatic, ajwain seeds are one of the popular spices commonly feature in Indian and Middle-Eastern cuisines. Botanically, the spicy seeds belong to the family of apiaceae (umbelliferae), of the genus, Trachyspermum. Scientific name: Trachyspermum copticum.

The umbellifers are the members of carrot or parsley family, which includes many herbs and spices such as dill, fennel, anise seed, and caraway. Some of common names for the seeds are ajowan seeds, carom seeds etc.

The T. copticum is thought to have originated in the Asia minor or Persia from where it spread to Indian subcontinent. The plant is a small cool season annual herb, which grows up to two to three feet in height. It features small white-petaled flowers that develop in to small, oval shaped seeds that are ready for harvest by the end of winter or early spring.

The seeds are olive green to brown in color, similar in appearance to cumin or caraway seeds with vertical stripes on their outer surface. Ajwain seeds have similar taste like that of thyme since it contains essential oil thymol.

Health benefits of Ajwain

  • Ajwain seeds contain many health benefiting essential oils such as thymol, a monopterone derivative class of chemical compound, which gives aromatic fragrances to seeds. It also contains -pinene, cymene, limonene and terpinene.

  • The active principles in the ajwain may help increase the digestive function of the intestinal tract by increasing gut juices (gastro-intestinal secretions).

  • Thymol, the essential oil obtained from ajwain has local anaesthetic, anti-bacterial and antifungal properties.

  • Like caraway, ajowan seeds are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.

Selection and storage

Ajwain are readily available in spice stores specialized in Indian or Middle-Eastern items. In general, whole ajwain seeds displayed for sale unlike in other spices such as dill, cumin, coriander etc. Buy fresh, wholesome, compact seeds that emanate rich thyme like flavor when rubbed between fingers.

Once at home, store the seeds in an airtight container and place in cool dark place away from sunlight, and humidity. Generally, ajowan seeds should be used as early as possible since they lose flavor rather quickly, largely because of evaporation of essential oils.

Medicinal uses

  • Ajwain seeds have long been used in traditional ayurvedic and unani medicines for various ailments. Extraction obtained from this spice sometimes used as carminative in treating flatulence and indigestion.

  • Thymol's germicide and antiseptic properties utilized in many cough remedies. In India, the seeds are used to ease asthma.

  • Ajwain seed oil has highest percentage of thymol.

Culinary uses

Ajwain seeds mainly feature in savory Indian, Pakistani, and Middle-Eastern cooking. In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, ajowan seeds generally crushed just before preparing dishes and added to the cooking recipes at final stages. This is because prolonged cooking results in evaporation of essential oils.

  • In Punjab province of India and Pakistan, the spice seeds particularly added to make bread known as ajwain paratha.

  • Some Indian vegetarian bean/lentil and chicken/fish curries contain this spice and in the Middle East, it is used to flavor meat and rice dishes.

  • The seeds generously used in snacks, spicy biscuits, to flavor drinks, soups, sauces in India.

  • They also used in pickling along with fenugreek, mustard seeds, turmeric etc.

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