Caraway seeds are the fragrant seeds of an herb in the parsley family and they have been known to man since pre-historic times. Caraway has a sharp, delicate anise flavor and are used extensively in German and Austria; they are important in Eastern Europe cuisine. Caraway is used in rye bread, pickles, sauerkraut, pork and duck dishes.
The use of this aromatic seed in Europe can be traced back to prehistoric times. In present times, caraway flavors all kind of vegetables, meats like pork, goose, goulash and other stews, cheese, breads, cakes, dumplings, and the liqueurs kummel and aquavit.
How to identify caraway
Caraway seeds are light to dark brown in color, and 1/8-1/4in (3-6mm) long. The plant can grow up to 2ft (60cm) in mild regions. It has downy, pale green leaves with small flowers, color ranging from white to light pink. The flowers emerge in clusters in the summer.
Caraway grows wild in Europe and it also is cultivated, especially in the area from Holland to Russia. It is also grown in other places like India, North Africa, USA and Canada.
How to use and store
It is available whole or ground. Buy whole preferably, and grind or pound before using. Keep in an airtight container away from light.
Caraway can be added to vegetables, meats, bread, cakes, dumplings, soups, stews, goulash, and others. The taste of German rye bread, perfect complement to pates and spreads, is due to caraway seeds. The strong liqueurs kummel and aquavit are also based on caraway. Caraway is also an ingredient in the hot harissa and in the Arab spice mix tabil.
Cooking with caraway
It is used in recipes such a borscht and caraway dumplings.
If you don't have it, substitute 1 tsp caraway seeds with the same amount of dill seeds or anise seeds.
Caraway is a remarkable spice when used with a light hand. Freshly ground and added in no more than a teaspoonful to carrot, potato, and cabbage dishes, it clearly enhances their flavor.
carum carvi (umbelliferae) - caraway - German: küchenkraut - Spanish: alcaravea.
How to grow
Caraway is a biennial plant, easily grown in temperate climates. Sow the seeds in early autumn or spring, thinning the plantlets to about 8in (20cm) apart. Cut the heads from mid to late summer, just before the seeds are fully ripe, and hang them in a paper bag in a dry, well-ventilated place.