[L.] Benth.et Hook. (Syn.Carum ajowan, Trachyspermum ammi)
Family : Umbelliferae; Apiaceae
Other names: Ajwain, carom,
bishop's weed, omum
Ajowan looks like wild parsley (similar
to caraway, celery and cumin seeds) and is a native of India. It
is grown throughout the country in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh,
Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and West Bengal.
It is also grown in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Egypt. The striped
seeds are used as the spice.
Ajowan is an erect, glabrous or minutely
pubescent, branched annual that grows upto 90 cm. Stems are striate
and leaves are distant and pinnately divided. Small white flowers
are on terminal or seemingly lateral pedunculate, compound umbels.
The fruits are ovoid, greyish brown, aromatic cremocarps with single
Ajowan grows on all kinds of soil
but does well on loams or clayey loams, both as a dry crop and under
irrigation. Seeds are sown from September to November. The plants
flower in about two months and the fruits become ready for harvesting
when then flower heads turn brown. They are pulled out, dried on
mats and the fruits are separated by rubbing by hands or feet.
Aroma and flavour
The sensoric quality of ajowan is
similar to thyme, but stronger and less subtle. The essential oil
(2.5 to 5% in the dried fruits) is dominated by thymol (35 to 60%);
furthermore, a-pinene, b-cymene, limonene and e-terpinene have been
Usage of ajowan is almost confined
to Central Asia and Northern India. Ajowan is particularly popular
in savoury Indian recipes like savoury pastries, snacks and breads.
For example, the Bengali spic mixture panch phoron is sometimes
enhanced with ajowan. Ajowan enjoys, however, some popularity in
the Arabic world and is found in berebere, a spice mixture of Ethiopia
which shows both Indian and Arabic heritage. In Southern Indian
cuisine (which is predominantly vegetarian), tadka-like preparations
are not only applied to dried lentils and beans, but also to green
Medicinal and Other use
Ajowan is much used as a medicinal
plant is ayurvedic medicine for its antispasmodic, stimulant, tonic
and carminative properties. The seeds are used to ease asthma and
indigestion. It is also widely used to treat diarrhoea and flatulence.
In the West, thymol is used in medicines against cough and throat
irritation. The thymol content makes ajowan a potent fungicide.