Caraway is a biennial herb growing from 18inches to 2ft tall (60cm), with umbrella shaped white or pink flowers and feathery leaves. The flowers only appear in its second year and then followed by its fruits (seeds). Propagate in the spring from seed in a well drained soil and in a sunny position.
Those familiar with vegetable gardening will recognise the seeds of Caraway as being very similar to those of the Carrot. Not surprising, for it is of the same family of the Carrot. The ferny foliage is instantly recognised as being a bit 'carroty'! Fennel and Dill are also members of the same family and share many of its properties.
Carum carvi prefers a full sun situation in almost any type of soil. In particular, it is happy in heavier soils.
Caraway or Carum carvi is a totally hardy herb for growing purposes, and the seed can be sown outdoors in late spring or early summer. If sown in this manner, then the seed should be sown thinly, and the result and seedlings thinned out rather than transplanting the individual Caraway seedlings. Transplanted seedlings can often bolt and not grow into mature plants.
If sown in compost, they should be sown with a sprinkling of seeds per 3in pot, and then planted out without separating the seedlings.
The aromatic foliage is fern-like, with small white flowers in profusion. The seeds when chewed (harmless) have a distinct liquorice taste, and are good for cleansing the palate and freshening the taste buds. There is a pleasant smell which is good for the breath!
The long stems supporting the flowers might look a little flimsy, but are rarely needy of any support.
In the Herb Garden - or any other situation, it can be grown as a companion plant, when it has properties to hide the scent of neighbouring plants from invading pests. this is supposed to be good for planting near Carrots when it will deter the carrot fly from invading carrot crops. Surprising as it is a member of the same family. The open umbels of flowers are good for attracting beneficial flying insects such as the predatory wasps which are partial to most insect pests and larvae.
Caraway Herbs prefer to be grown in full sun - and preferably with a rich soil, though will also grow well in light/thin soils. If the seeds are allowed to 'self-seed' the following year after planting, they will readily grow into small plants where they land. A very aromatic bounty of plants for free!
Problems with Caraway - Carum carvi
Other than the possibility of transplanted seedlings bolting, there are no insect or disease problems that we have encountered. In fact there have been trials - as yet inconclusive - to present Caraway as a good insect repellent plant! This alone is testament to its pest free reputation.
During the excavation of Neolithic sites in Europe, caraway seeds were found. The Romans, Greeks and the Egyptians were no strangers to this herb.
In Tudor times caraway was popular and used in the baking of cakes and breads, the seeds were sugared and served as a side dish.
infusion of seeds can relieve digestive disorders and flatulence; it has
also been known to treat those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
Caraway medicinal properties are anaesthetic, antibacterial a muscle
relaxant and it is even used to strengthen the urinary organs. The
essential oils are used to help the skin and decrease bruising. Caraway
seeds can also be chewed as breath sweeteners.
The oils are also used to fragrance soaps, lotions and also used in perfume.
Use caraway seeds when baking bread, sprinkle over the top just before baking, add the seeds to cakes, baked fruits, chutneys and pickles, they will all benefit from the flavour given from the seeds. The root of this herb can also be used, roast as you would just like any other vegetable. Try adding the leaves to stews and soups. Caraway works especially well with pork. Recipes utilising Caraway Seeds