Caraway (Carum carvi), a member of the carrot family (Umbelliferae), is a biennial spice crop native to Europe and western Asia and successfully grown in Canada.
In addition to being used as a spice, caraway seed contains 2.5 – 4.5% essential oil.
Caraway can be successfully grown on a wide range of soil types; however, due to its drought intolerance, shallow sandy soil should be avoided. As a result of its slow germination, caraway is usually seeded with a companion or nurse crop such as coriander, lentil, flax, canola, or mustard to ensure proper irrigation and weed control.
Caraway seed has a very high content of calcium, iron and dietary fibre. In addition, caraway seed contains two essential oils, Carvone (55%) and limonene (44%). These oils and other parts of caraway are used in culinary, industrial and medicinal products.
Products and Uses
The primary use of caraway is for culinary purposes; however, it also has industrial and medicinal functions. The entire caraway plant is edible; the roots may be cooked similar to carrots and the leaves can be used in salads. The main culinary market for caraway, however, is for its seeds, which may be used as a spice to flavour foods such as breads, meats, and cheese. The seeds can also be scattered over breads, cakes, and soups as decoration. From the seeds, an essential oil is derived that also has culinary purposes, as it is used to flavour gin, pickles, ice cream, and a number of other foods. In addition, the essential oil may be used to flavour mouthwashes, as well as to scent soaps and aftershaves. Medicinal uses of caraway are very broad and can relieve a wide range of ailments including toothaches, indigestion, eye infections, and colic. Additionally, caraway may be used as an antiseptic.
There are no grading standards set for caraway; rather they are graded by the buyer on the basis of aroma and appearance. However, cleaning standards for caraway seed are set by The American Spice Trade Association.