Family: Umbelliferae or Apiaceae
Names: Bunium carvi, Carum aromaticum, Carum decussatum, Foeniculum carvi,
Habitat: Native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, widely cultivated. Moist meadows, arable land and waste places from lowland to mountain elevations. May be found in Southern England as an escapee.
Carum carvi is a BIENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.
Cultivation of Caraway:
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil as long as it is not too wet in winter. Prefers a moist soil in full sun or partial shade. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.8 to 7.6. Caraway is a well-known herb that has been cultivated for its culinary and medicinal uses since ancient times. It is frequently cultivated in the modern herb garden and sometimes also commercially, there are some named varieties. Plants growing in more northerly latitudes and also in full sun are richer in essential oils and therefore more aromatic. Plants strongly resent root disturbance. They often self-sow freely when in a suitable location. This species is deep rooted and is a good plant for breaking up the sub-soil on heavy, wet land.
It dislikes growing near fennel or wormwood but is a good companion for most plants, especially those that are shallow-rooted. The flowers attract parasitic wasps to the garden, these prey on aphids and so help to reduce populations of insect pests.
Propagation of Caraway:
Seed – it is best sown in situ as soon as it is ripe in late summer and early autumn. The seed can also be sown March/April in situ, though in areas with cool summers the plants might not produce a crop of ripe seeds. Plants are very sensitive to root disturbance and should not be transplanted.
Culinary uses of Caraway:
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root; Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
Seed – raw or cooked. A spicy flavour, it is used as a flavouring in confectionery and bread, also as a flavouring in salads, vegetables etc. It is high in protein and fat. The seed is often chewed after a meal in order to sweeten the breath and also to relieve heartburn after a rich meal. Per 100g, the seed contains 333 calories, 10g water, 20g protein, 14.5g fat, 50g carbohydrate, 12.5g fibre, 6g ash, 689mg calcium, 568mg phosphorus, 16.2mg iron, 258mg magnesium, 17mg sodium, 1351mg potassium, 5.5mg zinc, 363 IU vitamin A, 0.383mg thiamine, 0.379mg riboflavin, 3.61mg niacin.
An essential oil from the seed is used as a flavouring in ice creams, candy, soft drinks etc. It is an essential ingredient of the liqueur kümmel. The crushed seeds are brewed into a tea. It has a soothing effect on the digestion.
Root – cooked. Used as a vegetable like parsnips. Stronger in taste than parsnips, but liked by many. A delicious vegetable.
Leaves – raw or as a flavouring in soups etc. The young leaves are much less spicy than the seeds and are a good salad, having a mild parsley-dill flavour. They give an aromatic tang to salads. Older leaves can be cooked as a spinach.
Collection: The flowering heads (umbels) are collected in July and left to ripen. The seeds are then easily collected as they can be shaken off.
Actions: Carminative, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, emmenagogue, galactogogue, astringent, anti-microbial.
Caraway is used as a calming herb to ease flatulent dyspepsia and intestinal colic, especially in children. It will stimulate the appetite. Its astringency will help in the treatment of diarrhoea as well as in laryngitis as a gargle, It can be used in bronchitis and bronchial asthma. Its anti-spasmodic actions help in the relief of period pains. It has been used to increase milkflow in nursing mothers.
For flatulence and colic Caraway combines well with Chamomile and Calamus, in diarrhoea with Agrimony and Bayberry and in bronchitis with White Horehound.
Preparations & Dosage of Caraway:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto l teaspoonful of freshly crushed seeds and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Esoteric uses of Caraway;
Health, love, protection, mental powers, memory, passion, and anti-theft. This magickal herb, prevents lover from straying when used in love spells & potions. Ideal for consecrating ritual tools. Carry to improve memory or use in dream pillows to help you to remember your dreams. Sew caraway seed into a small white bag with white thread and hide it under the mattress of a child’s crib or bed to keep the child free of illness.
Essential oil, parasiticide,
An essential oil from the seed is used in perfumery, for scenting soap, as a parasiticide etc. Twenty-five kilos of seed yield about 1 kilo of essential oil. The essential oil yield of the seed from plants cultivated in Poland is up to 10.33%.
- Volatile oil, consisting of carvone (40-60%) and limonene, with dihydrocarvone, carveol, dihydrocarveol, pinen, thujone, and other minor constituents.
- Flavonoids; mainly quercetin derivatives
- Miscellaneous; polysaccharide, protein, fixed oil calcium oxalate.