Caraway (Carum carvi)
Caraway is a biennial plant from the parsley family which is primarily used for its seeds (either whole or ground) though the feathery leaves and roots can also be used in cooking.
The seeds have a warm, slightly peppery aroma that is also warm and pungent.
Caraway seed flavour matches the warm, peppery aroma. They have a hint of fennel or aniseed with a slight bittersweet tang similar to eucalyptus or dried orange peel. The leaves have a mild flavour, similar to dill or parsley.
Caraway seeds are used extensively within European cuisines both in sweet and savoury dishes. It is an essential ingredient in tabil, harissa and is used to flavour cheese, sausages, soups and stews. Caraway seeds pair well with beetroot, cabbage, potatoes, apples, bread, duck, noodles, onion, and tomatoes and marries with garlic, parsley and thyme.
Plant caraway seeds in well-drained soil, full of organic matter, in a sunny position. The seeds will not appear until its second year. It’s best to harvest the seeds in the morning, while still covered in dew, to prevent the chances of the seeds falling off the flower head. Dry the seeds by tying a paper bag around the seed heads and hanging them upside down.
Caraway is one of the world’s oldest culinary spices native to Asia and northern and central Europe. The Romans used caraway to flavour bread, vegetables and fish. Ancient Egyptians placed caraway seeds in tombs to ward off evil spirits and other ancient societies sprinkled caraway onto possessions with the aim of protecting it from robbers. Caraway was considered an essential element in love potions, aimed to prevent lovers from straying.
Caraway has been predominately used throughout history for calming the digestive system. It has been known to aid with indigestion, nausea, cramping and wind. Caraway is used in gripe water, to aid wind and colic in babies and also used to flavour children’s medicines.
Caraway tonic has been also reported to benefit the kidneys, glands, eyesight, urine retention and relieve bronchitis and chest colds.
Facts about Caraway
The essential oils in caraway seeds are used to flavour spirits such as aquavit and Kummel. The oil from Dutch caraway is said to be the best because it is grown close to the sea.
How can I use other parts of the caraway plant?
Caraway roots can be prepared in the same way as other root vegetables (like parsnips or carrots) by boiling, steaming or baking. Add caraway leaves to salads, soups or at the end of stir fries.