The origins of the name caraway come from the Arabic al-caraway seeds; which some presume is the origin of the Latin word carve and from Caria, where caraway may have first been used. In German folklore, parents placed a dish of caraway seeds beneath their children’s beds to protect them from witches. The belief was that that any object containing caraway could not be stolen. The history of caraway also has a romantic side. Caraway was once used as an aide in preventing fickleness and was used in love potions. Caraway seeds were also added to chicken feed in hopes of keeping them from wandering off and are still sometimes given to homing pigeons.
Today, caraway is still recommended as a treatment for flatulence. Some parts of the world serve caraway seeds after meals much like an after-dinner mint. As a culinary herb, caraway is frequently used in German and Austrian cooking as a seasoning for cheese, dumplings, port, goose and sausages. It continues to be used for sauerkraut as well as breads, cakes, and sweetmeats. Young caraway shoots are used with salads and many eat boiled roots like a vegetable.
Sun: Full Sun
Optimum Soil Ph: 6.0 to 7.0
Days To Maturity: 60 Days
Sowing Method: Direct Sow
The caraway plant is a biannual. This means it takes two years for the plant to mature, produce seeds, then die. In practical terms, you start the plants two years in a row from seed. You won’t get seeds until the second year so starting them two years in a row will give you an ongoing crop.
During the winter you may not see any evidence of the plant even though the roots are preparing for spring. Mark your spot carefully so you don’t accidentally dig them up in the spring. Caraway will grow about 20cm (8in) the first year and up to 60cm (24in) in the second.
Seeds can be started early indoors, or can be sown directly where they are to grow.
The plant prefers warm, sunny locations and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. In warmer regions it is planted in the winter months as an annual.
Grow in light, fertile, well drained soil. Plant 30cm (18in) apart in a position that receives plenty of sunlight. Caraway prefers a sandy soil with good drainage, clays or wet soils are not going to grow a good plant and they may die over the winter.
Sow under cover indoors in March to April
Sow into small pots containing good quality seed starting compost. The plant has a long taproot which, once grown is difficult to transplant, so if sown early, transplant to the garden as soon as you are able while the seedlings are still small.
Sow directly outdoors in May to June.
Start plants from seeds as soon as the ground warms up in spring. Direct sow 12mm (1/8in) deep. Space 30cm (12in) apart. The seed should be barely covered and kept moist until they germinate. Once the seedlings appear, thin out if necessary leaving a strong plant every 30cm (12in) and keep them clean from weeds.
Caraway, like many umbellifers, is a useful companion plant. It can hide the scent of neighbouring crops from pest insects, as well as attracting beneficial insects like predatory wasps and predatory flies to its flowers.
Especially good planted with strawberries. Do not plant near dill or fennel.
With deep roots the Caraways plant is also good for loosening compacted soil.