Caraway Seed

How to grow Caraway

Caraway is a hardy, biennial herb which is native to Europe and Western Asia. First year plants resemble carrots, growing to about 8 inches tall with finely divided leaves and long taproots. By the second year, two to three foot stalks develop topped by umbels of white or pink flowers, which appear from May to August. Some varieties may flower the first year. The seeds are small, brown and crescent 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.



Planting – Caraway grows best in full sun, in a well-drained soil which is high in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. Seed can be sown in spring or early autumn. Caraway should always be direct seeded as seedlings do not transplant well. Fall planted caraway will often produce seed the following summer. Sow seed half an inch deep and thin seedlings to a final stand of six to eight inches apart.

The seed is slow to germinate, making weed control important during the seedling stage. Shallow cultivation is recommended. Since seed will not be produced until the second season, caraway is often intercropped with annuals such as beans or peas or grown with a cover crop.

Caraway Worm

The Swallowtail Butterfly can be your biggest problem with growing Caraway–as well as Dill–in that it acts as a host plant for the larvae.

The Swallowtail which is very scarce in many areas depend on these plants for their food source during development.

We selectively allow the Swallowtail Caterpillar to feed on some of our plants each year and will “transplant” the worm from one plant to another to encourage development.




We are often rewarded for our efforts.

The Swallowtail is one incredibly beautiful butterfly.






Cultivation- Provide a regular supply of water through drip or overhead irrigation. Use shallow cultivation several times during the growing season to control weeds. Caraway is usually unaffected by insects. To help prevent foliar diseases, keep the foliage as dry as possible by watering early in the day so the foliage dries quickly or by using drip irrigation. To reduce disease and insect problems, rotate caraway to different parts of the field each planting and destroy all plant debris after harvest.

Seed Harvest-To minimize the loss of seeds, harvest plants as soon as the seeds begin to turn dark and ripen. This will occur from June to August of the second year. Cut the plants with hand shears, scythe or knife and make small bunches of plants.

Hang them upside down until the seeds are dry. The seeds can then be removed by shaking over a basket or sheet.

Seed must be dried and stored in a dry place. Final drying can be done in the sun or in a drier with low heat. The seeds, which are frequently infested with insects, may be treated with scalding hot water or frozen to kill insect eggs.

Uses – The entire caraway plant is edible. The roots may be boiled and treated like cooked parsnips or carrots. The young leaves can be used in salads or for seasoning soups and stews. The licorice flavored seeds give rye bread its characteristic taste but are also good in potato soup, cheese spreads, sauerkraut and salad dressings. Several liqueurs are made with caraway, including Kummel and some Schnapps. The seeds and their oil are also used in a number of medicinal preparations for treating disorders such as rheumatism, eye infections and toothaches. The main constituents of caraway seed oil are carvone and limonene which have been reported to be potential cancer preventative agents. The oil is also used as a fragrance component in cosmetic preparations including soaps, creams, lotions and perfumes.

Caraway 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 bread made of caraway root (chara). During the middle ages the use of caraway spread up from the Arabian peninsula 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 possessions they would be protected from theft. It is known to be attractive to fowl and is used to keep chickens and pigeons from straying

Storage- Caraway seeds can hold their flavor for months stored in airtight containers and kept away from light.

Cooking- Add seeds after a dish is cooked, as a long simmer may turn the flavor bitter. It has a sweet warm aroma with a flavor 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 flavored cheese that are still in use today. Many liquors are flavored 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 flavor 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 flavor liquors, mouthwashes, toothpastes and chewing gums. It is also an important addition to Tunisian harissa and some blends of garam masala

Attributed Medicinal Properties
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).


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