Caraway’s name is derived from the ancient Arabic word for seed, and has been valued fro its flavour and medicinal properties since ancient Egyptian times. It has been found in archaeological excavations dating back over 5000 years, and is mention in the bible. In the Middle Ages, the roots were boiled as a vegetable, and the young chopped leaves were added to soups and salads. The seeds were added to breads and cakes during Elizabethan England, and offered to farm labourers after the wheat harvest. Today it is a common ingredient in rye bread, cakes, cheese and many German and Austrian recipes such as sauerkraut and kummel, a traditional liqueur.
Native to northern and central Europe, temperate Asia and the Middle East, caraway has naturalized in North America. It grows as a biennial, and tolerates a wide range of conditions, but prefers moist soils and full sun. The seeds should be sown in summer. Caraway is a decorative plant growing up to 80 cm tall, but be cautious about its location, as it can be a vigorous grower and is self-seeding.
(Written by Gini Sage, this article was originally published in the Uxbridge Horticultural Society newsletter, April 2008.)