Caraway is a hardy herbaceous member of the parsley and carrot family, growing to a height of 0.6 m. This seed spice is cultivated as a biennial.
Native range Asia, Northern Europe, Central Europe
Major producers Holland, Germany, Morocco, USA, Canada
Harvesting The stems are cut when the fruit is ripening, dried for 7 – 10 days to complete the ripening, and then threshed to extract the seeds.
Taste and aroma Caraway seeds have a warm, sweet, and slightly peppery aroma and their distinct flavour has a hint of fennel or anise with a note of dried orange peel.
Culinary uses Caraway is used extensively in eastern European, German, and Austrian cooking. It features in savoury and sweet dishes, including sauerkraut, goulash, and potato-based dishes. It is also used to flavour breads, cakes, and biscuits. Caraway is commonly used in the cooking of North Africa, mostly in vegetable dishes and in spice blends, such as Tunisian tabil and harissa.
Other uses The essential oil from this spice is a vital ingredient in spirits such as gin and schnapps, and aquavit liqueur. It is used as flavouring in chewing gum, toothpastes, mouth washes, and children’s medicines. Caraway oil is also used in the perfume industry.
Historical uses This is one of the world’s oldest culinary spices, with evidence of caraway seeds found in the remains of food from the Mesolithic age, about 5,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians always placed a container of caraway seeds in tombs to ward off evil spirits. Caraway was in common use in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Roman, both as a flavouring for food and as a medicine.
Storage Caraway seeds will keep for at least 24 months in an airtight container. They are easy to grind or pound when needed, but once ground the powder will lose its strength quite quickly.