Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Herb of the Week - Caraway

Due to weather, internet and other constraints the Herb of the Week has been missing for a bit, but I am back on schedule with this week's post.

The herb of the week this week is: Caraway (Carum carvi)

Not often considered when planning an herb garden, this is a great cooking staple one should often consider and since you can grow it up to Zone 3 in the north, there is no excuse not to. As you will see below it is also the perfect herb to mention just before Valentine’s Day!


The caraway plant is native to S.E. Europe and is nowadays cultivated in central and northern Europe and in some areas of North Africa. Holland is the main producer of the caraway plant; however Germany is the biggest consumer of caraway seeds.

The caraway plant (Carum carvi) is a member of the parsley family. It is best known for its tiny highly flavored seeds, which are most commonly recognized as the flavor in rye bread.

Extremely popular in central and northern European cuisines in particular, it has been said that caraway seeds are the oldest and longest used spice in Europe, with records dating back to Thebes, the ancient capital of Egypt, in 1552 BC.  Egyptians buried their dead with caraway, as this was thought to protect them against evil spirits and young Greek women used to rub the essential oil obtained from the seeds into their skin to promote a glowing and healthy-looking skin.

One of the most popular folk stories that still holds true today is that caraway has powers that stop things or people from going astray or being stolen. For this reason, caraway was often made into a love potion, to stop lovers from being unfaithful or from being stolen away. Farmers often gave their animals and fowl caraway seeds in their food to stop them from wandering off or getting lost. And even today, some bird keepers keep a piece of caraway dough in their barns or cages for the same reason.

To Grow

Caraway is a biennial, meaning it produces seed the second year.  It is best grown from seed as it does not tolerate transplanting.  It prefers full sun, deep fertile and well-drained soil.  The flowers are delicate white on multi-umbels that resemble Queen Anne’s Lace.  The plant has a tap root and should be sown in a place it is expected to remain forever, because like Horseradish.  It will spring forth from the root again and again, even if you think you dug it out.  The plant can grow as tall as 24 inches in height with feathery fern-like foliage.  The flowers and seeds appear the second year.

To Use

The feathery leaves can be used fresh in salads, stews and vegetable stir-fry.  The seeds are the most commonly used part of the plant and should be harvested from the plant before they fall to the ground.  They ripen about a month after the flowers are finished so mark a calendar to remind you to harvest on time.  Just clip off the seed heads and place in a paper bag to finish ripening.  Once ripe they should fall freely from the stems.  The root is also edible and can be dug after the second year.  It can be peeled and cooked like a parsnip or carrot.

Dishes made with cauliflower, carrots and parsnips are ideal base for caraway.  It is not just for rye bread.  The seed is thought to diminish the odor caused by cooking cabbage as well as imparting its subtle flavor.  The flavor changes with prolonged cooking, so it is best to add it during the last 10 to 15 minutes.

Caraway seed has been used medicinally to help settle an upset stomach.  Crush and steep a tiny amount in boiling water or warm milk.  You’ll want to crush the seeds to release the beneficial compounds.


Caraway Coleslaw

1/2 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt, or 2/3 cup regular plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (16-ounce) bag shredded coleslaw mix
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

If using regular yogurt, place it in a strainer lined with a paper towel and set the strainer over a bowl. Let the yogurt drain and thicken for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk together the Greek or stained yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add coleslaw mix and caraway seeds and toss to coat.

Irish Soda Bread 
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day here is a perfect one to try, that will use caraway!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup raisins
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 350º F.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with cooking vegetable spray.
In a bowl, stir together flour, salt, soda, sugar, baking powder, raisins, and caraway seeds.
In a separate bowl beat together buttermilk, eggs and butter.

Stir together dry and moist ingredients. Shape into a 6-inch mound on the baking sheet. If the mixture is too moist to maintain shape, add a little flour. Cut a large X into the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Cool slightly.

Tip: Irish Soda Bread is best when eaten the day it is made.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...