Ajwain (pronounced aj'o-wen) is a member of the Umbelliferae family.
It was originally from the Eastern Mediterranean, but is now mostly cultivated along river banks in Central Asia, India, and much of Egypt.
The small fruits are pale brown and have an oval shape, resembling caraway and cumin. It has a bitter and pungent taste, with a flavor similar to anise and oregano. They smell almost exactly like thyme because it also contains thymol, but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Even a small number of fruits tends to dominate the flavor of a dish.
Ajwain has a particular affinity to starchy foods like savory pastries and breads. It is also good with green beans and root vegetables. The seeds add balance to sweet soups and stews, and are said to lessen the gaseous effects of beans. Ajwain goes well with chicken, fish, legumes, and in curries, and may be combined with turmeric, paprika, cumin, fennel and coriander.
It is usually ground in mortar or blender, or crushed by rubbing between hands or fingertips before using. When used whole, for parathas (flatbread) or other breads, lightly bruise the seeds first, to release oils and increase flavor. The seeds can be stored indefinitely if kept from light in airtight containers.
Our Ajwain comes from the foot of the Himalayas in Bihar India. This rich agricultural area is famous for its fruits and spices.