A herb belonging to the cumin and parsley family, carom seeds, ajwain, are tiny, erect and oval-shaped with a sharp and penetrating taste. They have been used since ancient times for culinary, aromatic and medicinal properties.
Carom seeds are mostly used in whole form, and very rarely as a powder.
Because of its strong aroma and distinctive taste, ajwain is used in small quantities as part of the tadka for many dishes, especially dals and subzis. It is also used in the batter used for bhaji. Ajwain can be added to pickles for its preservative qualities.
Ajwain helps reduce the flatulence from lentils, and is considered an aid to digestion.
Ajwain seeds are available from Indian grocers and specialist spice merchants. Buy in small amounts as you are unlikely to use a lot of this spice.