Carum carvi Linn.
Family : Umbelliferae; Apiaceae
Other names : Carvies; Wild
cumin; Roman cumin; Persian cumin
The seed or fruit of caraway(Carum
carvi) is obtained from a biennial or occasionally from an annual
umbelliferous plant of the parsley family, native to Europe and
Western Asia and cultivated in many parts of the world. It is cultivated
in a limited scale in Kashmir, Kumaon, Garhwar and Chamba area in
India. Caraway is one of the world's oldest culinary spices. Seeds
of it were found in the remains of food from the Mesolithic age.
It was used to flavour bread eaten by Roman soldiers. The ancient
Egyptians always placed a container of caraway in tombs to ward
off evil spirits.
Caraway, a perennial or biennial
herb, grows to about 0.6 m and has feathery, compound leaves. The
roots are tuberose and thick and the flowers are small and white
borne on umbels. It blooms every two years to produce large creamy
flowers. The seeds are mericarps as each seed is a half of the fruit.
Each single seed or carpel is about 0.5 cm long, tan to brown, and
curved with five lighter coloured ridges along the length of the
The seeds of the biennial varieties
can be sown either late in summer or early in spring, but those
of the annual type only in spring. Sowings should be made in rows
60 cm apart at such rate as to produce six to eight plants / 30cm.
The seeds should be planted in light well-drained soil. Germination
is slow as well as the growth of plants in the early part of the
season; therefore, considerable care is necessary to keep down weeds.
The biennials flower early in the second season after planting and
mature their seeds by midsummer. When the fruiting umbels have turned
brown they should be cut from the plant before shattering begins.
The umbels should be dried thoroughly in the sun or shade, and the
seeds separated and then cleaned and stored in a paper bag or closed
Caraway seeds contain about1.5 -
3.5% volatile oil. The main component (50-60%) of the essential
oil is carvone. It also contains limonene, dihydrocarvone., dihydrocarveol,
carveol, acetaldeyde, methyl alcohol, furfural and diacetyl.
Caraway is used extensively in East
European, German and Austrian cooking. The whole form is used in
rye and other speciality breads, cakes and biscuits. They may be
used in potato salads, cream or cottage cheese, cookies, or bread.
The leaves can be snipped into salads or used as a garnish. The
carrot-shaped root has the same flavour as the seeds and it can
be cooked in the same way as parsnips, either by baking or boiling.
Medicinal and other use
Oil of caraway was recommended by
Dioscorides, the famous botanist, to be rubbed into to the skin
to improve the complexion. It is used as a flavouring in children's
medicines, as an antidote to flatulence and an acid to digestion.
Its flavour and aroma are used in mouthwash and gargle preparations
as well as in the perfume industry.