Caraway (Carum carvi)

Caraway (Carum carvi)

Description

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 resemble those of carrots but tend to droop more. The flowers, in umbellifer clusters, are white tinged with pink and appear in mid summer. The oval seeds are pointed at each end and are very dark brown. It takes two years for caraway to mature and bear flowers. The stems of the delicate flowers produce seed cases, each containing two seeds.

Cultivation

A slender and straggly plant, caraway has delicate clusters of white flowers and small feathery leaves. It is most effective when grown in a large clump. Seedlings do not transplant well, so sow in the garden in spring or fall. Work the soil deeply, as caraway is deep-rooted. Germination is slow. It thrives in all but the most humid warm regions and does best from fall-sown seeds. The plants should be thinned so that they are about 6 inches apart. It needs well-drained soil and plenty of sun for the best flavor.

Harvesting

Cut the young leaves when they are required. When the seed turns light brown, cut the whole plant off at ground level. Preserve seeds by drying.

Culinary use

The leaves may be used in salads and soups, the seeds in baked goods, dumplings, cream cheese and meat dishes such as goulash and pork casserole. The roots can be boiled as a vegetable and served with a white sauce.

Medicinal Use

Prepare the seed as a tincture or infusion for medicinal use. Use caraway to ease stomach cramping, flatulence, diverticulitis, menstrual pain and labor pains. It also stimulates the flow of breast milk. In combination with other herbs, it eases a cough and sooths sore throats and laryngitis (use as a gargle).

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