Description - Caraway is an annual or biennial plant of the carrot family, grown for the seeds, which are widely used in cookery. The leaves are greatly compound, with thread-like divisions. The flower stock is 2 feet or more in height. Flowers and seeds are borne in clusters. Seeds are ovate to oblong, somewhat ribbed. Like carrots, the plant forms a rosette of leaves and a tuberous root the first season, and the seed stalk the second year. The seed or fruit of caraway (Carum carvi) is obtained from a biennial or occasionally from an annual umbelliferous plant native to Europe and Asia and cultivated in many parts of the world. It is grown in various parts of the United States but not in commercial quantity. Some northern sections of this country are well adapted to its culture.
Native to northern Europe, caraway appears to have been a flavoring for baked goods there even in period. Sophie Knab, in her book on Polish herbs, says "In the Middle Ages, caraway was a trade item found in parts of Belgium and Poland, however it was already being used as a spice from the time of the first Piasts. It was added to beet soup and all varieties of meats and baked goods, especially breads." p. 99. Garland says "the seeds have been found among the rubbish on prehistoric sites in southern Europe. They were a common ingredient in 15th century English cookery (Falstaff is invited to 'a pippin and a dish of caraways'), and Gerard writes that 'it consumeth wind' and 'is delightful to the stomache and taste'." A digestive and carminative, caraway was one of the comfit seeds mentioned by Rumpolt. It's one of the ingredients in kummel liqueur. Rye bread with caraway may be period too. Banckes suggests it for flatulence, coughs, 'the frenzy', 'the biting of venemous beasts', 'scabs and tetters' and as a tonic for baldness. Humorally, it is considered hot in the third degree and dry in the third degree.Edible use - Seed, raw or cooked. A spicy flavour, it is used as a flavouring in confectionery and bread, also as a flavouring in salads, vegetables etc. It is high in protein and fat. The seed is often chewed after a meal in order to sweeten the breath and also to relieve heartburn after a rich meal. Per 100g, the seed contains 333 calories, 10g water, 20g protein, 14.5g fat, 50g carbohydrate, 12.5g fibre, 6g ash, 689mg calcium, 568mg phosphorus, 16.2mg iron, 258mg magnesium, 17mg sodium, 1351mg potassium, 5.5mg zinc, 363 IU vitamin A, 0.383mg thiamine, 0.379mg riboflavin, 3.61mg niacin.
Medicinal use - Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Aromatic; Carminative; Digestive; Emmenagogue; Expectorant; Galactogogue; Ophthalmic; Stimulant!
The oil from the Caraway Seed is used in making medicines. It is surprising that this oil is useful both as a stimulant and as an anesthetic. It is believed that Caraway Seed has been used in Europe longer than any other spice. For hundreds of years, Caraway Seed has been used as a remedy for many disorders of the digestive system, including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, colic, heartburn, indigestion, flatulence, and dyspepsia, for which it combines well with Peppermint. It has also been used as a gargle for laryngitis and in the ease of the symptoms of bronchitis and the common cold. Caraway Seed has been studied for its possible anti-infective properties and its positive effects on the digestion of ulcer sufferers.
Quoting Parkinson (1629): "the seede is much used to be put among baked fruit, or into bread, cakes, etc. to give them a rellish, and to help digest winde in them [that] are subject thereunto. It is also made into Comfit and put into Trageas, as we call them in English, Dredges that are taken for the cold and winde in the body, as also are served to the table with fruit."
Contraindication - Caraway is said to contain the alleged 'psychotroph' myristicine.
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