Caraway can be both an herb as well as a spice. The aromatic seeds come from a plant in the parsley family.
The caraway plant, native to Asia, produces this sickle shaped seed that gives rye bread its distinctive flavor. The spice is used in beef stews, pork dishes, soups, candies, and baked goods, especially bread.
The caraway plant grows up to 2 feet in height with feathery leaves and cream white flowers. It is the leaves of this plant that can be used in cooking or salads. Their taste is very fresh with a sweet undertone much like parsley. The leaves should be cut during the growing season.
Caraway seeds may also enhance the flavor of many vegetables. They are good tossed with boiled and quartered new potatoes, cabbage or in sauerkraut. Caraway seed is also known as a mild digestive aid.
Cultivation of Caraway
Site: Caraway likes full sun and a rich loam, well drained soil.
Propagation: Late spring or early autumn is the best time to sow the seeds in shallow (1/2 inch deep) drills. Both partial shade and heavy soil are tolerated well. Caraway does not do well with being transplanted. Sow the seed where it is to grow. The seed is slow to germinate, making weed control important during the seedling stage.
Growing: Thin plants to about 6 to 8 inches apart when large enough to handle. It self-seeds continually. Caraway can also be grown indoors in a sunny position.
Harvesting: Gather leaves when young. Pick seed heads in late summer or when seeds are brown. Dig up roots in second year.
Culinary Uses: Hang sun dried seed heads upside down over a open container and shake to remove. The seeds can be sprinkled over meats, goulash, cabbage or to flavor soups and breads. Chopped young leaves can be added to salads and soups and the roots can be cooked as a vegetable.