Caraway seed is the chief spice used in savory dishes in traditional European cooking. A strong aromatic, it is a member of the parsley family, which includes dill, anise, fennel, and cumin. It is native to northern and central Europe and west Asia, and it grows widely throughout the European continent. It has also been found growing wild in India and throughout the Himalayan region. On the plains it is cultivated as a winter crop, whereas in the Kashmir, Kumaon, Garhwal and Chamba regions, it is harvested in summer. Caraway’s properties were known and appreciated by ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks and were widely used throughout the Middle Ages. It was so revered that it was thought to be a necessary component of love potions and was prescribed to fair-skinned young maidens for bringing a rosy bloom to their cheeks.
Healing and Curative Properties:
All parts of the caraway plant are useful for improving health. It has been used to activate the glands and increase the activity of the kidneys. It is also a systemic cleansing agent for the body. Its oil has been helpful in relieving gas and bloating and for relieving the nauseating and gripping side effects of some medicines
Stomach Ailments: Caraway has been found to strengthen the digestive functions of the stomach and to relieve flatulent colic. A cup of tea made from caraway seeds taken three to four times daily may be very helpful.
Stomach Tea: Add one teaspoon of caraway seed to six to eight quarts of boiling water in a ceramic or enamel teapot. Allow to simmer over low heat for fifteen minutes. Strain and serve. For best results, sip tea hot or warm.
Colic Relief: Bruise an ounce of caraway seed. Pour a quart of distilled water over the seeds and let sit six hours. May be sweetened with honey. Give one to two teaspoons as needed, up to four times daily. This treatment is considered safe for all and is especially useful in treating children.
Hookworms: Carvone, isolated from the oil of caraway seeds, is an anthelmintic that is useful for removing hookworms from intestines.
Scabies: Soak one teaspoon of caraway seed in a quart of 100-proof alcohol (vodka works well) for twenty-four hours or longer. Mix one part of the alcohol solution in seventy-five parts castor oil. Shake mixture well. Take one teaspoon orally two to three times daily.
Earache: Mash caraway seeds and place in a hot, wet cloth. Place on affected ear. Reheat in microwave as needed. Apply to the ear three to four times daily.
Bruises: Pound seeds into a paste and apply to the bruised area; cover with a cotton cloth to hold in place. This can be repeated three to four times daily.
Other Medicinal Uses: Caraway is aromatic, helps bad breath, is a carminative, and can be used as a cordial for dyspepsia and hysteria. Taking a tea, either hot or cold, can also aid in relieving female problems. Caraway extract can be used as a rubefacient for soothing tired, sore muscles. It can also be useful in treating colds, bronchitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Health Benefits: In addition to the above medicinal properties, caraway seed has other health benefits.
- It is rich in dietary fiber – 100 grams of seeds contain 38 grams of fiber, which prevents constipation and speeds up the digestive process. Fiber also binds to toxins contained in foods and throughout the body. This helps to protect the colon from cancers.
- It is rich in anti-oxidants such as lutein, carotene, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin, which have been useful in protecting the body from cancers, infection, aging, and degenerative neurological diseases.
- It is rich in essential oils such as carvine, limonene, caeveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol, and thujone. These oils are known to have antioxidant, carminative, beneficial digestive, and anti-flatulent properties.
- It is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, magnesium, and zinc.
- It is also rich in necessary vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and many of the B-complex vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine and niacin.
Other Uses: Caraway has found a fine place in the kitchen flavoring breads, cheeses, and savory dishes containing beef and pork.
Growing Caraway: Caraway is a biennial herb with fleshy roots and slender, branched stems. It grows to two feet tall with small, feathery leaves and cream-colored flowers in umbels; the plant resembles Queen Anne’s lace. The dried fruit – seeds – are brown in color, sharp, and hard to the touch. They have a pleasant odor, an aromatic flavor, and a sharp taste that leaves a warm feeling in the mouth.
Growing caraway is easy, and it grows best in full sun. It can be sown as soon as the ground is warm and ready to be worked, around the end of May to mid-June. Cover the seeds lightly and keep them moist until they germinate. Caraway likes sandy soil with good drainage. When planted in clays or wet soils, caraway may bear a small yield, but they won’t be hardy and will likely die off in winter.
- A spring sowing will not bear seed until the plant matures in the second year. However, sowing in September can prove better, as you may get a harvest the following summer. Caraway tends to grow less than twelve inches tall the first summer.
- Harvest the seeds when they are dry. Then cut back the stalks and place in compost.
- Caraway will self-seed and may become intrusive, so thin vigorously to remove weaker plants and keep them in their place.
- Due to its biennial nature, you should plant a row this year and another next. This way you will have an ongoing crop each year. When you plant the first year, plant several seeds to an inch. Later you can thin them to keep the strongest plants, spacing one plant every twelve inches.
Add this herb to your garden for its edible delights, medicinal qualities, or both. Happy gardening!
Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss.
©2012 Off the Grid News