Notes on the Coleus / Karpooravalli plant and Recipe for Ajwain Leaf Bajji

Seeing the title, you'll wonder if this is a post for Inji Pennu's Green Blog Project or is it a thesis paper on confusing little plants? Read on to find out...

I was all set to write a quick post for GBP but it wasn't to happen so. A little internet research revealed that my plant was not at all the plant I thought it was.

I started growing this plant some 6 months ago from a small sapling that was planted at home by a local plant-vendor. I was under the impression it is the Ajwain plant. You must have heard of Ajwain or Omum, which is the fragrant seed that's used in Indian cooking. Ajwain is called Bishop's weed and when i saw the pictures of this plant online, it hardly looked like the one at home.

With some more research using Marathi and Tamil names, I hit upon the actual name for this plant which is Coleus Aromaticus. It is called Karpooravalli in Tamil and Pan-Ova in Marathi. The leaves look fleshy and scaly. It grows rapidly and with ease. In started growing so much out of the pot like a mini-jungle that I had to trim it off to decent proportions a month ago. And now, it's growing into a pretty bush.

When I chopped off the excess stems and threw them away, little did I realize that I was throwing precious stuff down the drain. Apart from using crushed leaves in a Raita or Dal, i hadn't put them to any major use. A few weeks ago both my Maharashtrian friends , Ujwala and Shaila, told me that I could make fritters with these fleshy leaves and they taste out of the world.

That sounded like so much fun. As it is I was feeling terrible about not being able to grow peas, avaraikkai and tomatoes like some of my favourite bloggers, and this was a small consolation- to be able to make something from my own garden.

Some info that I've unearthed about the usefulness of this plant (ref: Encyclopedia of Indian Medicinal Plants)
NAME: All-Purpose herb, Five Seasons Herb, Mother of Herbs (Plectranthus aromaticus syn. Coleus aromaticus).

DESCRIPTION: This succulent herb has the typical four-cornered stem of the Lamiaceae family. The leaves are very thick and succulent, grey-green and hairy. The plant grows to around 50cm tall. The leaves are highly aromatic with a strong flavour of mixed herbs.

ORIGIN: Seychelles, India & South East Asia

CULTIVATION: The herb grows easily in a well-drained, semi-shaded position. It is frost tender and grows well in sub-tropical and tropical locations, but will do well in cooler climates if grown in a pot and brought indoors, or moved to a warm sheltered position in winter. Water only sparingly.

USES: The leaves are strongly flavoured and make an excellent addition to stuffings for meat and poultry. Finely chopped, they can also be used to flavour meat dishes, especially beef, lamb and game. The leaves have also had many traditional medicinal uses, especially for the treatment of coughs, sore throats and nasal congestion, but also for a range of other problems such as infections, rheumatism and flatulence. The herb is also used as a substitute for oregano in the food trade and food labelled "oregano-flavoured" may well contain this herb.

Coleus Bhajjis / Ajwain leaf fritters
Freshly plucked leaves (as many fritters as you want to make)

Batter for 10-12 fritters

3 Tbsp besan (gram flour)
1 Tbsp rice flour
1/2 Tsp red chilli powder
Pinch of turmeric
Tiny pinch baking soda
Pinch of salt

Few Tbsp water to make a thick batter.
Oil for frying


Wash and pat dry leaves.
Mix all other ingredients to make batter.
Heat the oil and put the leaves covered with batter one by one into the oil. Fry on medium heat till both sides are golden brown.
Serve hot.

These REALLY tasted out of the earth. The leaves have an oregano-ish taste, spicy and aromatic and you cant miss that taste even after deep frying. You don't need any accompaniments to this bajji- Just a cup of tea and your favourite book will do!

This plant is really easy to grow and since it doesn't require heavy watering, you can also beautify your indoors with it too.

And that's something I did for fun with a little round of chapati aata that was left after making a batch of chapatis- let's call it Coleus chapaticus?

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Tanna said...

Exotic and lovely - that sounds so good. Great fun how you discovered what you were growing.
Thanks for stoppin by my blog.
I'm constantly discovering new people and am so happy to find so many really terrific and wonderful blogs such as yours.

Nandita said...

Thanks a ton Tanna! Im so happy to hear from you so soon-trust me I'm going to buzz you ever so often :)

Krithika said...

Your bajjis look delicious Nandita. Perfect color I would say :-) This is a great idea. Similar to making palak pakoda isn't it ?

Prema Sundar said...

I remember to have seen this plant in india. Iam not sure whether it is this plant , but when u squeeze the leaves with ur fingers and keep it in ur nose u get a good smell which is good for cold . I have done this when i was a kid.

ur idea of making bajji with it is nice.

Nandita said...

Yes thanks for reminding me Krithika, I forgot to add that you can make similar bajjis with spinach leaves, just that these being much fleshier, hold well.

Prema-Welcome to saffrontrail! You are right, chewing this leaf is like using Vicks inhaler, and i love it :)

Luv2cook said...

Hey Nandita:

Yes. I do remember eating the fritters at some point in my life. I do not however remember who fed me those which is very ususual because I do have a pretty good memory when it comes to food..hmmm.....BTW, you are lucky to be growing these :).

shilpa said...

Nandita, we had this plant at native. dont remember what it is called, but it is used in a variety of medicines. I had seen some info abt this plant here

Nandita said...

Luv2cook- i am lucky, it's like having a cold remedy on hand

Shilpa-you are so right in pointing it out, had i read that post of LG's I wouldnt have had the trouble of finding out what is the botanical name etc...

Thanks !

Priya said...

Hey Nandita,
The title is hilarious, specially after I realised where u got those names..!!
We have this plant in our home in India, we've had it like forever...everytime we went into the garden my mom would force my brother and me to chew a leaf off it as its really good for health..she also used it in kashayam for cough/cold and also in bajjis. I hated eating the leaves initially but miss this plant here :-)

starry nights said...

Interesting. have not seen or heard of this plant. thanks for all the info. its something that I am going to look into.

RP said...

Wow! The plant is really a beauty! Unique entry for GBP!

Nandita said...

Priya-thanks for that encouragement on the 'hilarious' bit, I thought initially if it sounded a bit crazy, but then couldnt think of anything better. I like to munch on a leaf whenever i get into the balcony, its a great mouth freshener too!

Starry-RP, Thanks for ur comments

Garrett said...

That. Sounds. So. Good.

Malini said...

Oh god! I remember kashayam-it was a must during the cold months in my village. I was usually chased all around the house, finally caught and force fed kashayam for my cold and asthma troubles! And what went in promptly came out!

So karpooravalli always holds bad food memories for me!

This plant's strong smell is also supposed to ward off mosquitoes in the vicinity.

Inji Pennu said...

Wow ! Terrific ! Terrfic Nandita!

I didnt know you could make fritters with this. I have these so much in my yard! Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

The bhajjis look delicious.My friend's mom used to make these often.Sometimes she used to make chutney out of it.

Priya said...

We grow this plant back home in coimbatore. Mom says its good for cold and makes kashayam with this. We dint know any other recipe with karpooravalli. Called mom this morning, gave her this recipe. She was got all excited !! She said she'l try it for a evening snack.

Btw the " COLEUS CHAPATICUS " looks very pretty ;)

Nandita said...

Garret-Hey thanks !

Malini- Ha ha, aint it fun to have discovered a TASTY way to deal with this plant and not being reminded of our sick days and kashayam? I'm sure if i eat too many of these, i'll be due for a good cup of kashayam :)

Inji Pennu- Just try it- i mean it, you'll give me a virtual hug that you could do something SO good and non-medicinal with this plant and I have my two friends to thank!

Kamakshi- I'm sure one can make chutney from this too-why if people can use oregano in some kind of pesto then we too can use karpooravalli in chutney Ha ha

Priya-I'm sure your mom will love them, it doesn't retain its full pungency after frying, just that delicate spicy flavour. I must say I liked it even more than my favourite onion bajji. I love the way moms and daughters share each other's recipe finds :)

Puspha said...


Deepz said...

Hey Nandita, your plant looks very beautiful and healthy. Can you suggest a place where I can buy it from in US?

Nandita said...

Sorry about the late reply.

I wouldn't know where one can buy it in US, probably you'd get the seeds of Coleus Aromaticus in a regular gardening store. Or the other best alternative would be to contact Inji Pennu who is hosting the green blog project (link given in this post). She blogs out of FLorida and grows almost everything...

AkaRound Peg said...

Coleus aromaticus (Dodda Patre in Kannada) is what I grow in abundance too but the leaves are scalloped. I was told its Ajwain too, but I doubt t since the plants produces no seeds.

Agree its a wonderful plant to have about the house.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how to make the "kashayam" with karpooravalli/ panikoorka leaves?

Mani said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences and the information...I really envy you...we live in cold Minnesota where the weather is frigid for over half the year..but the other part is hot and humid and wonderfully sunny.
We had this plant and grew lush but it died out of accidental neglect and we haven't been able to replace it.
The kashayam from the plant can be easily made by soaking leaves in water overnight and then boiling the leaves in water for about 5 need to be careful to not overdo the heat as it boils off the aromatic oils!

coolhead said...

thanx nandita. finally, after months of searching, i finally come across your article and managed to identify this plant. i've been re-planting this plant and giving out to a few people already as gifts. now, i can let them know its benefits..!


R I T I said...

Hey ! Thanks ! I was looking for a name to this plant on the net and found ur blog. I have one in my garden and love the smell it gives out. It is growing at break neck speed and I'm planning a bigger pot for it :)

RK said...

I have this plant in the US. It's very easy to propogate it. When my original one was dying, I took two small clippings and let it root in a bottle. Now they are planted and have grown beautifully! Russians and polish use this to make tea, it's good for the heart. I must say, I did see ajwain like seeds fallen all around the plant one time...we also use this in South India to make a chutney like dish and eat it with hot rice and ghee!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the recipe...sounds good...
well i often use the leaves when my son suffer from bronchitis. squeeze some of the leaves and mix it with some honey.its a great herbal medicine(fed up of chemical one).
Results of faster health within 3-5 days.
since then...i have started gardening!!!

wholesale plants said...

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Asha Ram said...

Hi, I found your blog page when I was searching the Net. I have mentioned your blog site in my blog. Pls visit my blog site whenever you can,

And, yes, I will try your recipe!

Asha Ram

CAHead said...

Where did you got this in US? Could you give some info would be highly helpful

saffrontrail said...

It is found in all nurseries in India. Im sorry I am not aware of where it would be available in the US/ You could search using the botanical name Coleus aromaticus.

vani said...

i live in u.k thanks for the name i finally got it in tamil , try making pakoras with its a best receipe to make in winter snowy days you will enjoyit trustme its same as normal pakoras making just add leaves teared as you add dhania in it

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