Flavorful yet strongly pungent, ajwain seeds are one of the popular spices commonly feature in Indian and Middle-Eastern cuisine. Botanically, they are the spicy seeds belonging in the family of Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), in the genus; Trachyspermum. Scientific name: Trachyspermum copticum.
The Trachyspermum copticum (ajwain) is thought to have originated in the Asia minor or Persia regions, from where it spread to the Indian subcontinent. The plant is a small, cool season annual herb, which grows up to two to three feet in height. It features tiny white-petal flowers in umbels that develop into small, oval-shaped seeds that are ready for harvest by the end of winter or early spring. Ajwain seeds are olive green to brown in color, have similar appearance to cumin or caraway seeds with vertical stripes on their outer surface. However, they can be easily distiguished by thier elliptical shape and tiny size. Their flavor closely resembles that of thyme, since they comprise an essential oil, thymol.