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Caraway seed

Caraway seed is one of the oldest spices, and thanks to its antispasmodic properties and other health benefits, it is also used as a medicinal plant.

General information:

From Wikipedia: Caraway, also known as Persian cumin, (Carum carvi) is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae, native to western Asia, Europe, and North Africa.

The plant is similar in appearance to members of the carrot family, with finely divided, feathery leaves with thread-like divisions, growing on 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in) stems. The main flower stem is 40–60 cm (16–24 in) tall, with small white or pink flowers in umbels. Caraway fruits (erroneously called seeds) are crescent-shaped achenes, around 2 mm (0.08 in) long, with five pale ridges.”

Culinary uses:

“The fruits, usually used whole, have a pungent, anise-like flavor and aroma that comes from essential oils, mostly carvone, limonene, and anethole. Caraway is 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. It is also found in European cuisine. For example, it is used in caraway seed cake, and it is frequently added to sauerkraut. The roots may be cooked as a vegetable like parsnips or carrots. Additionally, the leaves are sometimes consumed as herbs, either raw, dried, or cooked, similar to parsley.

In Serbia, caraway is commonly sprinkled over home-made salty scones (pogačice s kimom). It is also used to add flavor to cheeses such as bondost, pultost, havarti and Tilsit cheese. 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 Tunisian chili pepper paste. It is typically made and served in the Levant area in winter and on the occasion of having a new baby. In Aleppian, Syrian cuisine it is used to make the sweet scones named keleacha.”

Medicinal uses:

“Caraway stimulates the digestive glands and has properties that help to ward off bloating and relax muscle cramps (antispasmodic). It is often used in the case of digestive problems involving bloating and gas, for minor cramps in the stomach, intestinal, and gall bladder rea, and also for psychosomatic disorders of the heart and stomach.

You can use the caraway fruits to make tea or essential oil, which is often combined with anise seed and coriander or rather with their essential oils.

Of these ingredients, caraway seed has the strongest antispasmodic properties. Caraway oil has been shown to have antimicrobial effects and is therefore often an ingredient in mouthwash and toothpaste. Chewing a few caraway fruits is said to help get rid of bad breath.*”

Cultivation:

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

Finland supplies about 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.”

“Wild caraway can often be found growing on the side of the road or in pastures and meadows.*”

Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry