In the traditional Europian cuisine, caraway seed is one of the dominant spices featuring in several savory dishes. Strongly aromatic, caraway is a member of the parsley or Umbelliferae family; a large family of plants that also includes commonly known herbs and spices such as dill, anise,fennel, and cumin,. Caraway grows extensively all over the Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor regions. It is a biennial, herbaceous plant which blooms once in every two years. Its creamy flowers appear in umbels.
The plant grows to about two feet in height and bears small feathery leaves. Caraway seeds, having similar in appearance as that of cumin, have a crescent shape, dark brown, with up to five stripes (ribs) running lengthwise on their surface. Caraway harvested during the early morning hour of the day to avoid spilling and wastage of its seeds in the field. They are then stacked in bundles and left to dry under sunlight. The seeds extracted by threshing, either manually or using machines.
Caraway can be found in a wide variety of products from foods to toothpaste. Breads, spice mixtures, sausages, cheeses, sauerkraut, even alcoholic beverages, fragrances and medicines – the aromatic caraway has many uses. It can be crushed or ground, distilled into oil or used as whole seeds. Caraway seeds feature warm, sweet, and slightly peppery aroma when squeezed between index and thumb fingers. They used extensively in European and Mediterranean cooking. To keep their fragrance and flavor intact; caraway seeds roasted gently under low flame and ground just before using them in a recipe. Also, along with other spicy items, they are being used to season sausage and other meat preparations. In Central Europe, caraway-seasoned sausages (Kielbasa Kminkowa) are a staple dish.
Caraway seed In addition to their utility as remedial items in the traditional medicines, have their own food value, and indeed, have many health benefiting nutrients, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. In addition it is a rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 38 g of fiber, 100% of daily recommended intake of fiber. The soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber increase the bulk of the food and help prevent constipation by speeding up its movement through the gut. Also, dietary fiber binds to the toxins in the food and helps protect the colon mucosa from cancers. Further, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon, and thus help in reducing serum LDL cholesterol levels. Caraway contains health benefiting essential oils. Principle volatile compounds are carvone, limonene, carveol, pinene, cumuninic aldehyde, furfural, and thujone. These active principles in the caraway seeds known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.
Caraway is also an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Copper required for the production of red blood cells. Iron required for red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. The caraway seeds indeed are the storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin-A, vitamin-E, vitamin-C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin particularly concentrated in the seeds.