Herb and Spice of the Week – Caraway

July 10, 2014 at 5:42 AM | Posted in spices and herbs | 2 Comments
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Caraway Plant

Caraway Plant

Caraway (Carum carvi), also known as meridian fennel, or Persian cumin, is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae, native to western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa.

The plant is similar in appearance to other members of the carrot family, with finely divided, feathery leaves with thread-like divisions, growing on 20–30 cm stems. The main flower stem is 40–60 cm tall, with small white or pink flowers in umbels. Caraway fruits (erroneously called seeds) are crescent-shaped achenes, around 2 mm long, with five pale ridges.

 

 
The fruits, usually used whole, have a pungent, anise-like flavor and aroma that comes from essential oils, mostly carvone and limonene. Anethole, generally regarded as a minor product in the essential oil of this species, has also been found to be a major component. They are used as a spice in breads, especially rye bread.

Caraway is also used in desserts, liquors, casseroles, Indian cuisine rice dishes such as pulao and biryani, and other foods. Caraway is also used as a breath freshener and other medicinal purposes. It is more commonly found in European cuisine. For example, it is commonly used in British caraway seed cake and is also added to sauerkraut. In Serbia, it is commonly sprinkled over home-made salty scones (pogačice s kimom). It is also used to add flavor to cheeses such as bondost, pultost and havarti. Akvavit and several liqueurs are made with caraway. In Middle Eastern cuisine, caraway pudding is a popular dessert during Ramadan. Caraway is also added to flavor Harissa, a Maghrebian chili pepper paste. Also it is typically made and served in Levant area in winter and in the occasion of having a new baby, Also in Aleppian, Syrian cuisine it is used to make sweet scones named Keleacha, and used in combination with habbet al-baraka, or nigella seeds, although these names are often cited as misleading. the Nigella and Caraway seeds are extolled as being “A cure for every disease except death.” Indeed, traditional Syrian medicinal uses of black seed are extensive, including the treatment of skin conditions, respiratory infections, intestinal disorders and parasites, headaches, toothaches and more. Nigella and Caraway help promote lactation in nursing mothers and uterine contractions during labor.

The roots may be cooked as a root vegetable like parsnips or carrots.

Additionally, leaves are sometimes consumed, either raw, dried, or cooked as herbs, similar to parsley.

Caraway fruit oil is also used as a fragrance component in soaps, lotions, and perfumes.

Caraway also has a long tradition of medical uses, primarily for stomach complaints. Emerging and ongoing research from Arabic regional studies suggest Carum carvi use as an endocrine function support agent, specifically related to thyroid disorders and autoimmune disease (see Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)

 

 

 

A magnified view of caraway fruits used as a spice.

A magnified view of caraway fruits used as a spice.

The plant prefers warm, sunny locations and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. In warmer regions it is planted in the winter months as an annual. In temperate climates it is planted as a summer annual or biennial. There is however a polyploid variant (with four haploid sets=4n) of this plant that was found to be perennial.

Finland produces approximately 28% (2011) of the world’s caraway production. Caraway cultivation is well suited to the Finnish climate and latitudes which ensure long hours of sunlight in the summer. This results in fruits that contain higher levels of essential oils than those produced in other main growing areas which include Canada, the Netherlands, Egypt and central Europe.

 

 

 

Caraway Pudding: ground rice, cinnamon, caraway spices, and nuts

Caraway Pudding: ground rice, cinnamon, caraway spices, and nuts

Caraway, like many umbellifers, is a useful companion plant. It can hide the scent of neighboring crops from pest insects, as well as attracting beneficial insects like predatory wasps and predatory flies to its flowers.

Caraway thyme has a strong caraway scent and is sometimes used as a substitute for real caraway in recipes.

Other similar members of the family Apiaceae include anise, fennel, dill, cumin, licorice-root (Ligusticum), and coriander (cilantro).

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2 Comments »

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  1. Useful info about caraway. ….love them….

    • I haven’t used too often.


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