The Mystery of the Bishop’s Weed


Jim Holt from Canada writes:

Hey Kurma,
Love your recipes, many, many thanks. Ajwain (ajowan) is particularly popular with many of my Punjabi neighbours in Chai. I noticed a reference on a web page of yours that puts the English translation as ‘Oregano”.

I’ve heard it referred to as Carom, Bishop Seed, and Thymol Seeds, but never Oregano. Is this a special oregano? I’m fascinated, as I love ajwain in tea and chatni and just about everything. Dying of curiosity, Jim.

My reply:

I just keyed in the words ‘ajwain oregano’ on google search. Do it yourself and see what comes up. There are many entries that equate the two, either directly, or by saying that they taste similar. But note most of these are Indian links. Many Indian publications translate oregano as ‘ajwain’ when in fact they are not botanically linked, and of course not the same thing. I think they both contain proportions of aromatics such as thymol, releasing a similar fragrance in the epithelium when eaten.

That is why it crept onto my website. If you are an Indian chef, for instance, you won’t find oregano on the subcontinent, so you use ajwain instead for an ‘ersatz’ version. I have tasted ajowan on pizza in India. Wasn’t that impressed. That’s my slant on things.

By the way, I also love this spice. It has a remarkable history and a host of wonderful medicinal qualities. Here’s some information about ajowan.
Posted by Kurma on 18/8/07; 5:38:08 AM

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