Caraway is useful in cooking, baking, and even medicine. The fine leaves can be sprinkled in salads and the roots can be cooked like parsnips or sliced and eaten raw. The essential oil of caraway is pale yellow and carries the strong odor and flavor of the seeds.
The culinary use of the caraway plant dates back 5,000 years. Caraway grows well in West Asia, North and Central Europe, and it grows wild in the Himalayas where the Indians call it Siya jeera. The botanical name is Garum carvi but the present name caraway is derived from karavya by which it was known to the Arabs as early as the twelfth century.
The entire plant is useful in cooking, baking, and even medicine. The fine leaves can be sprinkled in salads and the roots can be cooked like parsnips or sliced and eaten raw. The essential oil of caraway is pale yellow and carries the strong odor and flavor of the seeds. The brown, hard, and aromatic seeds are the main part of the herb that is used. They contain Vitamins A, B, and C, plus protein. They also have iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and carbohydrates but are fairly low in sodium.
Caraway seeds can be bought whole or ground. I suggest getting them whole if you want to keep them for a long time. They retain their flavor up to four years if stored in a cool, dark, dry place in tightly closed containers. The taste of the seeds is a combination of anise and dill. Caraway is also comparable to cumin, although its flavor is milder and does not dominate. Curries and other Indian spices benefit with the addition of caraway. It is in baking that caraway is most often used. Swedish, Jewish, and German breads make use of caraway. The seeds may be added to the dough or sprinkled on top. If you want extra crunch and flavor, add caraway into cakes, biscuits or over muffins.
Soups also benefit from the addition of caraway. The famous Russian beet soup, Borscht, is seasoned with caraway seeds and served hot or cold. Caraway goes well with cabbage dishes such as sauerkraut and coleslaw. Add the seeds to boiled or steamed vegetables like onions or asparagus for a wonderful flavor. Vegetable soups also taste better with caraway.
Butter, cream, cheese spreads can take on a new dimension with caraway seeds. For an appetizer, mix caraway seeds into a cream dressing and serve over cucumbers. French bread can be sliced then spread with a mixture of butter and caraway seeds and baked until it is hot and crispy. If you’re tired of the usual coleslaw dressing, try it with a bit of caraway. Add caraway seeds to melted butter and serve over cooked vegetables. Caraway can also be eaten raw to aid in digestion and to sweeten the breath.
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans believed in the curative properties of caraway. The seeds, leaves and roots are considered useful in activating the glands, besides increasing the action of the kidneys, relieving headaches, and cleansing. Caraway oil has been used to relieve flatulence, and caraway seeds are useful in strengthening the stomach. Caraway is also used in the treatment of hookworms, scabies, halitosis. A final interesting note: in the Middle Ages, caraway was added to love potions because it was said to keep the partner faithful. Hopefully caraway will benefit your health in some resourceful way, or help keep you faithful to that which you truly love.
For an appetizer, mix caraway seeds into a cream dressing and serve over cucumbers.