Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb caraway are Caraway Seed and Roman Cumin.
Caraway is one of the most popular herbs which have long been prized for the excellence of its aromatic dried seeds as a condiment and an aid to digestion. Caraway was well known in classic days, and it is believed that its use originated with the ancient Arabs, who called the 'seeds' Karawya, a name they still bear in the East, and clearly the origin of our word Caraway and the Latin name Carvi,
although Pliny would have us believe that the name Carvi was derived from Caria, in Asia Minor, where according to him the plant was originally found. In old Spanish the name occurs as Alcaravea.Caraway is another member of the group of aromatic, umbelliferous plants characterized by carminative properties, like Anise, Cumin, Dill and Fennel. It is grown, however, less for the medicinal properties of the fruits, or so-called 'seeds,' than for their use as a flavouring in cookery, confectionery and liqueurs .
Caraway is a biennial and grows to a height of up to 2 feet with a spread of 12 inches. It has a thick, tapering root like that of a parsnip. The leaves are finely cut and resemble those of carrots but tend to droop more. The tender leaves in spring have been boiled in soup, to give it an aromatic flavour.
The flowers, in umbellifer clusters, are white tinged with pink and appear in mid summer. The stems of the delicate flowers produce seed cases, each containing two seeds. The fruits which are popularly and incorrectly called seeds - and which correspond in general character to those of the other plants of this large family, are laterally compressed, somewhat horny and translucent, slightly curved, and marked with five distinct, pale ridges. They evolve a pleasant, aromatic odour when bruised, and have an agreeable taste.
Caraway grows wild in Europe, North Africa, and Asia and cultivated in Europe, Russia, North Africa, and the US, and the seeds are harvested ripe in late summer. It is also indigenous to all parts of Siberia, Turkey in Asia, Persia and India.
Caraway thrives best in well-tilled, moderately light clay soil that is rich in humus. Tolerated pH range is 4.8 to 7.8.
Caraway needs full sunlight and requires additional watering during dry spells. Sow seeds directly in the garden in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Seeds are slow to germinate. Putting seeds in the freezer for a few days before planting may improve germination. Plant seeds about 6 mm (1/4 inch) deep. Seedlings usually emerge in 8 to 12 days. Space plants 20 cm (8 inches) apart. Although caraway self-seeds, the resulting plants may be rather weedy.
The flowering heads of caraway umbels are collected in July and left to ripen. The seeds are then easily collected as they can be shaken off. Harvest fresh leaves at any time after the plants are about 15 cm (6 inches) high. Harvest seeds when they have ripened, but before they fall to the ground. Cut leaf stems (with seed heads) at the base. Enclose the seed heads in a paper bag to catch the ripe seeds as they fall, and then hang the stems upside down in a warm, dry location. When the seeds are dry, shake the heads vigorously. Be sure seeds are thoroughly dry before storing them in airtight jars. Harvest roots in the fall.
seeds and the essential
oil are the most commonly used parts
of the plant for its medicinal and commercial purposes.
The small white flowers are in bloom, from May to July, yielding caraway seed.
Pests and Diseases
Grasshoppers and leafhoppers can damage caraway. Grasshopper heads and parts in the harvested crop can result in down-grading. Leafhoppers can spread aster yellows. Damping-off and root rot cause yellowing and death of emerging seedlings in year one. In year two, affected plants have slow development, stunting, yellowing at the flowering state and a poor seed set.Phoma blight is seed-borne, affecting the stem and head with raised grey to black lesions. Aster yellows are a disease carried plant-to-plant by leafhoppers. Infected plants at flowering time have their flowers turn yellow and grow tattered. Plants do not set seed.
• Caraway was recommended in dyspepsia and symptoms attending hysteria and other disorders.
• Distilled Caraway water is considered a useful remedy in the flatulent colic of infants, and is an excellent vehicle for children's medicine.
• Caraway is used in treating earache and the powder of the seeds, made into a poultice, will also take away bruises.
• Seeds of caraway soothe the digestive tract, acting directly on the intestinal muscles to relieve colic and cramps as well as all types of bloating and flatulence.
• They sweeten the breath; improve appetite, counter heart irregularity caused by excess digestive gas, and ease menstrual cramps.
• The seeds are diuretic, expectorant, and tonic, and are frequently used in bronchitis and cough remedies, especially those for children.
• Caraway helps the nursing mother by increasing breast-milk production.
• The diluted essential oil is a useful remedy for scabies.
• Caraway will stimulate the appetite. Its astringency will help in the treatment of diarrhea as well as in laryngitis as a gargle.
• The exhausted seed, after the distillation of the oil, contains a high percentage of protein and fat, and is used as a cattle food.
• Caraway leaves are used in soups, stews, and salads.
• Caraway seeds are widely used to flavour and season rye breads, cakes, biscuits, cheeses, omelettes, pasta, soups, salad dressing, applesauce, rice, and seafood.
• The essential oil from caraway seeds is used commercially to flavour pickles; marinades, preserved meats, confectionery, condiments, candy, ice cream, and alcoholic beverages such as aquavit and kummel.