Carom or Ajwain (Karpooravalli) is a leafy herb that is commonly used as for medicinal as well as culinary purposes in India. It makes a great tasting bhajjiya when coated in channe ke atta and deep-fried!
: Carom is an annual plant in temperate climates, but grows as a perennial in Mumbai’s tropical climate. It can be sown and grown all year round.
: This plant is propagated from seed and cutting. It is slightly difficult to propagate through seed, but extremely easy through the latter method.
GERMINATING: If you plan on germinating seed, then use a germination dish/seeding basket prepared with a mixture of compost and cocopeat. Seeds can be shown in shallow, 1/4 inch deep holes or scattered on the surface with a sprinkling of soil above. Place in semi-shade and spray water evenly. Spray your sown seeds daily until seedlings emerge in 7-15 days.
PLANTING OUT: Plant out your carom seedlings when they are sturdy in stem and their first true leaves emerge, at about 2 weeks of growth. Choose medium-composted, well-drained soil that could be alkaline, mildly acidic or neutral, as this plant will tolerate different soil types. It does however, produce the richest foliage in alkaline soils that are not too rich in organic matter. If you are using cuttings, then choose sturdy, de-leafed stalks of freshly cut carom, planting them a few inches into the soil. You can use stalks obtained from the grocery store, if they are fresh and have not been refrigerated.You can plant your saplings/cuttings in direct sunlight or partial shade, and spaced about 6 inches apart to allow room for growth. Carom will grow well on open plots or in containers.
NURTURING: Carom grows enthusiastically and requires very little nurturing besides watering and occasional pruning of dead leaves. It does not tend to get preyed on by insects or other pests. Do not over-water this plant, and let it enjoy good sunlight and water, and it will keep you in good company and fine seasoning for years to come.
HARVESTING: Harvest tender, newer leaves as the plant grows. Carom will grow speedily and you will soon have lots to share with friends and family. It may be possible to dehydrate it for storage and later use, if you have a dehydrator machine. If not, it is almost impossible to properly dry this succulent herb in Mumbai’s humid climate. After a year’s harvest, or when stems turn yellowed and old, you can either keep growing it or choose to renew your crop with fresh cuttings from the older plant. In the latter case, uproot the old plant, compost, replenish the soil and use that space for growing fruiting or rooting veggies next.
Carom/ajwain plants at two months – more than I can eat!
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