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Botanical Name: Carum carvi
Common Names:Caraway,Meridian fennel, Persian cumin
carvies (Scottish), wild cumin, Roman cumin, Persian caraway
Habitat :Caraway is native to western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa.The plant prefers warm, sunny locations and well-drained soil.
Caraway or Persian cumin (Carum carvi) is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae, native to Europe and western Asia and Northern Africa, the Mediterranean and much of Europe. It falls into both categories of herb and spice, as it is the seeds that are used primarily, but if you grow it yourself , the leaves and the root are also edible. Caraway has been found in food dating back to 3000 BC making it one of the oldest cultivated spices. The Ancient Egyptians buried their dead with caraway to ward off evil spirits. It was also used as a food and a medicine in Ancient Greece and Rome. A Greek physician, Dioscorides prescribed oil of caraway to young ladies to rub into their skin and restore a healthy glow. Julius Caesar’s army ate a bread made of caraway root (chara). During the middle ages the use of caraway spread up from the Arabian pensinsula and into Northern Europe. Old herbal legends describe caraway’s power to keep things from getting lost or stolen. It was used in an ancient love potion, and it was also believed that if you tucked some into your possesions they would be protected from theft. As well it is known to be attractive to fowl and is used to keep chickens and pigeons from straying
The plant is similar in appearance to other members of the carrot family, with finely divided, feathery leaves with thread-like divisions, growing on 20–30 cm stems. The main flower stem is 40–60 cm tall, with small white or pink flowers in umbels. Caraway fruits (erroneously called seeds) are crescent-shaped achenes, around 2 mm long, with five pale ridges.
Caraway is a biennial that takes two years for full life cycle, after it produces seeds it dies off. It can reach a height of 30-80cm with foliage that is frilly like the foliage of carrots. It has a thick root, similar to a parsnip and hollow fluted stems. The clusters of small flowers can be white, yellow or green. It is an easily grown plant that prefers a well drained soil and a sunny spot. After it flowers, the seed produced are brownish in colour, are ribbed and slightly cresent shaped. It resembles cumin and the two are often confused in Asia. It is commercially cultivated all over Europe as well as in Turkey, India and North African. Dutch caraway is considered to be of high quality and Holland is one of the largest producers.
The fruits, usually used whole, have a pungent, anise-like flavor and aroma that come from essential oils, mostly carvone and limonene. They are used as a spice in breads especially rye bread. Caraway is also used in liquors, casseroles, and other foods, especially in Central European and Scandinavian cuisine, for instance sauerkraut. It is also used to add flavor to cheeses such as havarti.
The roots may be cooked as a root vegetable like parsnips or carrots.
In one of the short stories in Dubliners by James Joyce, a character eats caraway seeds to mask the alcohol on his breath.
Caraway seeds can hold their flavour for months stored in airtight containers and kept away from light. It is suggested to add seeds after a dish is cooked, as a long simmer may turn the flavour bitter. It has a sweet warm aroma with a flavour similar to aniseed and fennel. It figures prominently in the cuisines of Germany, Austria, eastern Europe and Scandinavia. It seems to have a special affinity for apples, pork and sausages.The spice seems to counter act the fattiness of pork, duck and goose. It is an essential taste in sauerbraten, sauerkraut and rye bread. Smoked and skimmed milk cheeses from Austria, Germany, Hungary Holland and Scandinavia contain whole seed. There are medieval recipes for caraway flavoured cheese that are still in use today. (Dutch cheese). There are many liquers are flavoured with caraway (Kummel, Akuavit gins and Schnapps). It can also be used in cakes cookies, soups, omelets, rice and pasta dishes, cheese spreads and vegetable dishes. In Elizabethan times it was used to flavour bread, cakes and fruit, particularly apples. It was popular with english tea in a seedcake, similar to a pound cake served warm with butter. Caraway seeds were customarily chewed to freshen breath. The essential oil extracted from caraway is used to flavour liquers, mouthwashes, toothpastes and chewing gums
Medicinal Properties and Uses
The primary medical benefit of caraway is its effect on digestion. It is a carminative which means it helps with gas and digestion. It is helpful to chew caraway seeds after a heavy meal. It has been used for colic as it is a light sedative and it can be used to settle a queasy stomach (antispasmodic).Akvavit and several liqueurs are also made with caraway, and a tisane made from the seeds is good for colic, loss of appetite, digestive disorders and to dispel worms. Caraway seed oil is also used as a fragrance component in soaps, lotions, and perfumes.
Caraway water is well known for its carminative effect, particularly for babies. This property of the seeds has been known and used from ancient times until today. Caraway is also used as a flavoring for children’s medicines. It is a good digestive and stomachic. Other properties it is believed to have are: antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, appetitive, emmenagogic, expectorant and galactagogic (stimulates the secretion of bile). It was used in cases of dyspepsia, diarrhoea and even hysteria. Dioscorides is quoted as recommending pallid girls to take a tonic of caraway oil. Modern researchers have discovered that two chemicals (carvol and carvene) in caraway seeds soothe the smooth muscle tissue of the digestive tract and help expel gas. Antispasmodic, which appear to be present in caraway, soothe not only the digestive tract but other smooth muscles, such as the uterus, as well. Thus, caraway might relax the uterus, not stimulate it. Women may try it for relief of menstrual cramps. For a pleasant-tasting infusion that might help aid digestion, relieve gas or menstrual cramping, use 2-3 teaspoons of bruised or crushed seeds per cup of boiling water. Steep 10-20 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups a day. If you prefer a tincture, take -1 teaspoon up to three times a day. Low-strength caraway infusions may be given to infants for colic and gas.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Help taken from:www.theepicentre.com and en.wikipedia.org
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- Sourdough Rye Bread with Caraway and Onion (spoonfeast.com)