Caraway , also known as meridian fennel,or Persian cumin,is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae,native to western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa.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.
HOW TO GROW
- Grow from seed.It is best to plant the seed straight in the ground where you intend the caraway to grow. Choose seed from the nursery, or a previous crop of caraway. Sow the seed in early spring. If you live in an area where the winter is not too cold, the seed can also be sown in winter (best for tropical area growth) but doesn’t tolerate winter wetness.
- Sow the seeds shallowly. Keep seeds about 15–20 centimeter (5.9–7.9 in) apart. If not, thin the seedlings to the most vigorous growers.
- Place mulch around the seedlings.Compost, rotted manure, or hay are good choices.
- Water deeply.Watering is most important during dry periods.
- Fertilise late spring and summer.Use a complete fertiliser in the soil on planting, then use liquid or soluble fertiliser once or twice during the growing months.
- Pick the caraway seed heads when they have ripened completely. Do not wait for the seeds to begin to fall though. Spread them on a tray or open container to dry completely with the sunshine (a windowsill is fine).
- If you want to eat the leaves, pick them in early spring when they’re young and palatable. Roots can also be eaten when young.
- Store the caraway seeds.These should be stored in airtight containers until needed. Replenish each year.
- If seed is not collected, caraway will self-seed every year.
- Once seed germinates, thin the caraway plant to 8 to 12 inches apart. In colder climates, mulch the roots of the plant heavily with straw or organic mulch, which will add nutrients to the soil.
- Germination is slow and sporadic when growing caraway seeds, and the herb may be intercropped to help prevent weeds and manage soil conditions.
- Very little cultivation is required in caraway growing, but adequate moisture is an important component in the first year. The foliage of caraway plants need to be kept dry during irrigation, so a drip hose is an excellent way to keep the soil moisture level up.
- Cut the plant back in the fall as it will die back and re-sprout in spring. Caraway has few pests or disease problems. Plant a second crop a year after the first for consistent production.
- Powdery mildew
- Downy mildew
- Root knot nematode
- Caraway seeds are rich source of dietary fiber and help prevent constipation by speeding up its movement through the gut. In fact, gastro-intestinal transit time of food is greatly decreased.
- Fiber also binds to toxins in the food and helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancers. In addition, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon, thus help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels.
- Caraway contains several health benefiting essential oils. Principle volatile compounds are carvone, limonene, carveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol, and thujone. These active principles in the caraway seeds are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.
- Caraway has several health benefiting flavonoid antioxidnats such as lutein, carotene, crypto-xanthin and zea-xanthin. These compounds are indeed functions as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus protect from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
- Caraway spice is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium..
- The seeds indeed are the storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin particularly are concentrated in the caraway seeds.