Are you looking for a spice that tastes great with winter stews and meats and brings a unique herbal flavour to soups? Look no further. Caraways are known for adding an aromatic taste to your recipes. They are easy to grow, taking up minimal space and can provide you with a fresh supply of spices throughout the summer months.
Caraway plant is a biennial herb that can be grown in your backyard. It is related to carrots and parsley, so it has a similar look and taste. Caraway seeds are also often used in breads, sausages, and pickles.
Being a perfect companion for many meats and other dishes, growing caraway is a methodical process that enriches your culinary life, but also saves money if you are willing to use all parts of the plant caraway at different stages of its growth. Here is a complete guide on what you need to know about growing caraway in your garden or at your home window.
Quick Facts About Caraway plant
- Scientific name: Carum carvi
- Type of plant: biennial herb
- Native to: Western Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa
- Light requirement: full sun to partial shade
- Water requirement: 0.8 cups of water every 9 days without direct sunlight
- Preferred temperature: 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 C.)
- Size upon maturity: 12-18 inches tall
- Type of soil and pH level: well drained soil; between 6.0 and 7.5 pH level
- Word meaning: white-flowered aromatic Old World herb
- Family: Apiaceae or Umbelliferae; carrot family
- Lifespan: more than one but less than two years after germination
- Growing Season: spring and late summer
What exactly are Caraway plants?
Caraway (Carum carvi) is a herbaceous biennial in the family Apiaceae, native to western Asia, Europe, and North Africa. The plant resembles a carrot with a long tap root, with finely divided, feathery leaves with flower heads containing white or pink ray florets and yellow disc florets. It is a common ingredient in European cuisine.
Its seeds have been used in cooking since ancient times. They have a distinctive tangy flavor, similar to anise or cumin, but milder than either one. Caraway is often used in pickling recipes because it helps cut the sharpness of vinegar. It also makes an interesting addition to breads and cakes.
What do Caraway plant seed heads look like?
Caraway seeds are small, round and hard. They can be black or white and have a texture that feels like sandpaper.
Caraway grows to be between 3-7 feet tall and they have narrow leaves that grow from the base of the plant. The leaves on this herbaceous perennial are green with a purple tint to them and they have a jagged edge around the leaf stalk.
The flat topped flower head on these plants are small and white with a yellow center. These flowers form into large seed heads that will become more prominent when the plant is ready to produce fruit.
Where to Grow Caraway plants?
These plants are available at most nurseries and garden centers. Caraway seedlings have a long taproot that can make them difficult to transplant, so you may want to start your plant indoors or purchase a transplant from your local nursery.
A Caraway seed should be planted about 1/4-inch deep in full sun or partial shade. Plant them in well-draining soil rich with organic matter, such as compost or peat moss. You can grow caraway directly in the ground if you live in zones 4 or 5, but for other people it is better to grow caraway indoors until fall when it can be moved outdoors for the winter months when it is colder outside and there’s little chance of frost damage to the plant during its first year outdoors.
How to Grow Caraway seed?
Growing caraway plants is easy if you live in an area that does not get full sun during the early summer months. They will germinate quickly if you sow seed directly into the ground after all danger of frost has passed. If you live in an area where winters are cold and there is still snow on the ground at least once each year, then the plant begins indoors so they will have time to establish themselves before winter arrives.
Caraway grows best in full sun. It can be grown in an area that receives partial shade but will not grow as sufficiently.
Caraway prefers sandy or loamy soil that is well drained but doesn’t dry out too quickly. They will grow in most garden soils, including clay, as long as they receive at least five hours of sunlight per day.
Water moderately and deeply their seeds. They are best soaked in water for about 10 hours before planting.
These fresh herbs are very frost-sensitive, and caraway prefers to be planted after all average frost of the spring has passed, or in an area where the temperature rarely falls below freezing.
Its seeds are best stored in a dry, cool place. If you’re storing them in the refrigerator, use an sealed container or plastic bag. Make sure the seeds are completely dry before storing them.
They also can be kept in the freezer for up to a year if they’re sealed in an airtight container or plastic bag and then placed inside another bag or sealed container.
If you don’t want to freeze your seeds, you can store them in a cool, dark place for up to six months.
When to Harvest caraway?
You can harvest seeds when they turn brown, usually about 10 days after you first see them ripening on the plant. The seeds will continue to ripen for several weeks after they first turn brown so you can keep harvesting them until they are completely ripe and dry. The seeds can be harvested late in the summer or early fall, once they have ripened and are completely dry.
You can use a sharp knife or scissors to cut off the dried stalks at ground level. If you want to save your seeds, cut the heads off just above the first leaf joint below each flower head. Spread out your plants for several weeks to ripen evenly before you harvest them all at once.
Managing pests and diseases
Aside from pests that damage our crops, there are also beneficial insects that help our plants bloom successfully in the growing season and harvest period. The best way to manage bad pests on caraway is to prevent them from getting established in your garden. This involves using good cultural practices such as rotating crops, checking roots, planting disease-resistant varieties, and keeping weeds under control. If you have problems with pests anyway, here are some suggestions to keep them under control:
- Aphids: Control aphids by spraying the herb with water from a hose or by releasing ladybugs into your garden.
- Leafhoppers: Insecticidal soap sprays can also help control leafhoppers when sprayed on infected plants every seven days until harvest time. Apply the soapy water during cool weather when insects are most active. Use a hand sprayer to apply it at the first sign of trouble because it has no residual effect once it dries out.
- Moths: Monitor your caraway flowers closely for any signs of insect damage so you can spray them before they do too much damage. You can also cover the herb with floating row covers if you start seeing damage early enough in the season.
- Aster yellows: Rotate crops and avoid planting caraway in the same place with companion plants more than once every three years. You can also try using copper spray fungicides during bloom time or spraying potassium bicarbonate when the plants are young (make sure to wait until after the first rain) to help control the spread of the aster yellows.
- Parsley caterpillars: Pick off the affected leaves and destroy them immediately. The best time to do this is in the morning before the sun hits the herb or when it’s dry outside so that you don’t spread any eggs around your produce flowers in the garden.
- Carrot Rust Fly: These can be controlled by using row covers or other physical barriers such as cages over newly planted seedlings. You can also use insecticidal soap spray to kill off adults or apply neem oil or pyrethrin sprays to control larvae and adults.
You can grow your own herbs from seed, but they need careful attention to avoid pests and diseases. Here are some tips for growing caraway:
- Direct sow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Prepare a good soil mix using well-composted manure or fertilizer pellets with compost and work it into the soil. Plant three seeds per pot and thin out the weakest plant when they’re about 2 inches tall. You will see that seed germinates within two weeks after planting them outdoors if there are no cold spells during that time frame.
- Take root cuttings in the spring by digging up several pieces of the roots and letting them dry for a few days. The roots should have at least 4 nodes (joints) on them. Cut off the top 2 or 3 inches of each piece of root and place them in a container filled with sand and water, or potting mix. Place the container in a sunny window or under grow lights until new growth appears. Transplant outdoors when temperatures are warm enough for your area.
Caraway is propagated by seed or root division.
If you want to propagate your plants by seed, simply collect the ripe seed pods and place them on top of moistened paper towels or newspaper until they dry out and open up. Then simply shake out the seeds into a glass jar or other container with holes in the lid so that they can be shaken around until they separate from companion planting. Once separated, plant caraway immediately in potting soil or directly into your garden bed.
If you prefer to grow caraways from root divisions, wait until spring when new growth emerge from the ground before dividing your existing clumps into smaller pieces with at least three stems each (these will become new plants). Re plant caraway divisions immediately into pots or directly into your garden bed overtop of organic mulch (such as straw or paper bag) which will help retain moisture during early spring before harvest.
Nutrients Found in Caraways
Caraway has been used for centuries as a spice and medicinal herb. In fact, one plant was used in ancient times as a digestive aid to relieve indigestion, gas and bloating.
Its seed also contain essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are important for brain function and heart health. EFAs help to prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation.
The antioxidants found in caraway seed boost your immune system by fighting off viruses or bacteria that make you sick with colds or flu season. Caraways seeds have also been shown to protect against cancer cells since they contain antioxidants that fight free radicals such as quercetin, kaempferol and rutin that can damage healthy cells.
Can you eat raw caraway seeds?
Yes, you can eat its raw seeds. However, they are very bitter and not all that good for you, so it’s best to cook with them.
What other root vegetables go with caraway?
Caraway can be used with most vegetables and is especially good with carrots, potatoes, and turnips. Caraway pairs well with other herbs and spices like parsley, celery seed, and dill. You can also use caraway in your cooking to add a unique flavor to your dishes.
Caraway seeds are commonly used in rye bread and as a garnish on sauerkraut. In Europe, it is often used in German sausages, such as bratwurst or bockwurst.
When is caraway organic gardening best started?
Caraway is best started indoors or in a greenhouse 4-6 weeks before the last average frost date of the spring. Keep soil well-moistened while germination occurs; moderate slightly once the seedling has broken through the surface of the soil.
All in all, when planted correctly, caraway is a very easy herb to grow. Growing and harvesting caraway from your garden can also be a great way to save money. Not only that, it is also a great option for gardening even if you’re an inexperienced gardener.
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