|Binomial name||Carum carvi|
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,
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.
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.
The fruits, 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.
Parkinson declared them, when young, to be superior in flavour to Parsnips. Mixed with milk and made into bread, they are said to have formed the 'Chara' of Julius Ceasar, eaten by the soldiers of Valerius.Caraway is frequently mentioned by the old writers. Dioscorides advised the oil to be taken by pale-faced girls. In the Middle Ages and in Shakespeare's times it was very popular.'
The seed,' says Parkinson, 'is much used to be put among baked fruit, or into bread, cakes, etc., to give them a rellish.The custom of serving roast apples with a little saucerful of Caraway is still kept up at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at some of the old-fashioned London Livery Dinners, just as in Shakespeare's days - and in Scotland to this day a saucerful is put down at tea to dip the buttered side of bread into and called 'salt water jelly.'
The scattering of the seed over cakes has long been practised, and Caraway-seed cake was formerly a standing institution at the feasts given by farmers to their labourers at the end of the wheat-sowing. The little Caraway comfits consist of the seeds encrusted with white sugar. In Germany, the peasants flavour their cheese, cabbage, soups, and household bread with Caraway and in Norway and Sweden, polenta-like, black, Caraway bread is largely eaten in country districts.
A curious superstition held in olden times about the Caraway. It was deemed to confer the gift of retention, preventing the theft of any object which contained it, and holding the thief in custody within the invaded house. In like manner it was thought to keep lovers from proving fickle (forming an ingredient of love potions), and also to prevent fowls and pigeons from straying. It is an undoubted fact that tame pigeons, who are particularly fond of the seeds, will never stray if they are given a piece of baked Caraway dough in their cote.Caraway is said to be a powerful Protective and Healing Curio, especially for children.
We believe that seeds are used by many people for the purpose of Warding off the Evil Eye which may harm babies, and for bringing Good Luck to children in Health Matters. Like so many other favourite herbs, caraway acquired its own folklore. In Europe, popular belief held that caraway would prevent the theft of any item that contained it. This virtue gave caraway power as a love potion: feed your lover caraway and he or she cannot be stolen from you. In the same spirit, country people fed caraway to their chickens, geese, and pigeons to keep them from straying. Some pigeon keepers still place caraway dough in their lofts to keep the flock intact.