Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), Carum carvi L.
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Caraway, Carum carvi L., is a slender annual or biennial
herb native to Asia Minor and Europe and naturalized in North
America. The plant, reaching a height of approximately one meter,
has long been prized as a flavoring agent or condiment. Caraway
seeds are actually the mericarps of ripe fruit borne in compound
umbels. Principal production areas are located in Egypt, the Netherlands,
Poland, Spain, Turkey, the USSR, the United States, and Morocco.
The reported life zone for caraway is 6 to 19 degrees centigrade
with an annual precipitation of 0.4 to 1.3 meters and a soil pH
of 4.8 to 7.8 (4.1-31 ). The plant can grow in a wide range
of soil conditions, but probably does best on upland well-tilled
soils (14.1-29). The plant is sensitive to frost, plant competition,
and mechanical injury.
Since maturity requires about 15 months, the biennial caraway
is usually intercropped with vegetables that are harvested the
first year. In the Netherlands, caraway is typically seeded at
the end of March and blossoms during the following year, in May.
For the annual variety grown in the United States, planting is
done in early spring, and the plants mature in late summer. Harvesting
begins when the seed color changes to brown, as shattering is
a problem with late harvest. Fall planting allows caraway to be
grown in regions with shorter growing seasons.
Caraway fruit contains 3 to 6% essential oil on a dry weight basis,
with carvone being the main constituent (50 to 60%). Other volatile
oil compounds include and to a lessor extent dihydrocarvone, dihydrocarveol,
carveol, d-perillyl alcohol, and d-dihydropinol (1.5-118,
14.1-9). The oils of caraway grown in different locations
differ from each other in quantity, quality, and composition.
An inferior oil, caraway chaff oil, is obtained from husks and
stalks and used for scenting soaps (14.1-9) .
The aromatic seeds are used for flavoring breads, cake, fish,
meats, sausages, cheeses, soups, sauerkraut, and confectionery
products. Leaves can be added to salads, soups and stews. Roots
of the plant can be eaten as a winter vegetable. Oils are used
in liqueurs, mouthwashes, toothpastes, soaps, and perfumes. The
German liqueur kummel gets its flavor from caraway oil.
As a medicinal plant, caraway has been used against indigestion,
colic, and nausea. Additionally, it has been employed as an antispasmodic,
appetizer, carminitive, emmenagogue, expectorant, stomachic, and
stimulant. The oil is sometimes used as a flavoring agent with
other medicinal preparations. Most activity of caraway comes from
the volatile oil, which is a mucuous-membrane irritant (11.1-136).
Oil of caraway has antibacterial properties (1.8-130). The
ketone carvone and terpene limonene, ingredients of the essential
oil, can cause contact dermatitis (11.1-96) .
Black caraway is actually from Nigella sativa L.
Caraway is generally recognized as safe for human consumption
both as a spice/natural flavoring and plant extract/essential
oil (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 ).
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997