Caraway Plant: Seedy Spice And Tasty Roots


Caraway is grown primarily for its scrumptious anise-flavored seeds, which are sometimes added to lovely bakes reminiscent of rye bread.  As a biennial herb, it’s essential to wait two seasons to reap, relegating the caraway plant to being just for the affected person gardener.  Don’t let this put you off! Caraway isn’t just about seeds.  

The seeds are well-known for his or her use in bread, biscuits, slaws, cheese, potato, and egg dishes, however do you know you could eat the younger leaves in salads or add on the finish of cooking to stews and casseroles? The leaves are barely bitter which might be useful in getting these abdomen juices prepared for motion.  Caraway roots can be eaten as a root vegetable much like parsnips and carrots.

Caraway seeds have been used for the reason that stone age to alleviate indigestion and signs of bloating, cramps, and gasoline. It’s additionally a gorgeous plant to have within the backyard, filling areas within the flower border and even as a compact intercropping plant within the veg patch to maintain weeds at bay. One or two vegetation ought to maintain you equipped with seeds for the yr, so all different vegetation are a bonus!

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Quick Care Guide

While the caraway plant is thought for its seed, it additionally has tasty roots. Source: UnconventionalEmma
Common Name Caraway, meridian fennel, and Persian cumin
Scientific Name Carum carvi 
Family Apiaceae
Height & Spread 8 inches –  first yr, 24 inches – second yr
Light Full solar
Soil Sandy loam, fertile, well-drained
Water Regular watering
Pests & Diseases Aphids, parsley caterpillar, carrot rust fly, leafhoppers, Aster yellows virus

All About Caraway

Caraway flowers and foliage
The leaf construction is lacy and delicate, identical to the blooms. Source: detsugu

Caraway’s botanical title is Carum carvi and it’s a member of the Apiaceae or carrot household together with different umbellifers like fennel and parsley. Native to western Asia and Europe, caraway has unfold all through the temperate areas of the globe.  ‘Caraway’ is essentially the most generally used title, however it’s also often called meridian fennel and Persian cumin as a consequence of caraway seeds being comparable in look and anise taste.

As an fragrant herbaceous biennial plant, caraway develops a low-growing rosette of leaves within the first yr and flowers and units seed within the second yr. Leaves are brilliant inexperienced, feathery, rising to three–6 inches lengthy (8-15cms), and are very comparable in look to carrots.  Stems are slender, nearly floppy, and vertically ribbed.  In the primary season, vegetation develop to eight inches (20cms) in peak.

Caraway flowers are produced within the second yr on the finish of tall spikes, 24 inches lengthy (60cms) and are made up of clusters of tiny white/pink flowers in flat umbels. The caraway taproot is lengthy, pale creamy yellow/white a seems to be a bit like parsnip.

The seeds are the hallmark of the caraway plant.  They ripen one month after flowering, turning from golden yellow to a heat brown with 5 pale ridges operating alongside the sting of every seed ½ inch (6mm) lengthy.

The lifecycle is biennial, or spanning two rising seasons.  First season progress could die again fully in chilly climates returning the next spring. Flowering stems will develop shortly after.  In heat climates, caraway seed sown in late summer season/early fall will flower the next spring.  However, all seeds sown in spring is not going to flower till spring subsequent yr.

All components of the plant are edible.  Leaves can be utilized in salads and the roots can be utilized as a root vegetable.  While the leaves are barely bitter, the roots have a heat and earthy taste.  Caraway seeds can be utilized in bread, biscuits, casseroles, stews, and potato dishes, or principally any dish that requires a heat trace of anise.

As with most umbellifer vegetation, the fragrant nature of caraway makes a very good rising companion for the likes of peas and beans. The flowers additionally appeal to useful and predatory bugs to assist deter and scale back nasty pests. 

As an intercropping plant within the vegetable backyard, caraway can scale back weeds in its first yr.  Just watch out it doesn’t change into the weed in subsequent years as caraway self-seeds prolifically.

Planting Caraway

Sow caraway seed indoors in early spring no less than 4 weeks earlier than the final frost date after which they are often planted exterior into their remaining rising positions.  Plants will produce plenty of low-growing foliage within the first yr and flowers and seed heads the next spring, early summer season.  

In hotter climates, you’ll be able to sow caraway seed below cowl in early fall for planting out in spring when all threat of frost has handed.  Plants will flower and produce seed in late spring/summer season of the identical yr of planting out.

Sow seeds ½ inch (1cm) deep if sowing in modules or sowing direct.  Transplants must be spaced 8-12 inches (20-31cm) aside and seedlings thinned to the identical distance.  Leave 18 inches (45cms) between rows.

Plant caraway in full solar in fertile, well-drained soil. Plants will tolerate some partial shade particularly if rising in a sizzling local weather.  If you’re wanting area, you’ll be able to plant caraway in containers.  Ensure the containers are deep sufficient to accommodate the lengthy taproot and extensive sufficient if you wish to develop a couple of plant.


Caraway umbel
Delicate stem tendrils help the umbels of caraway flowers. Source: Dendroica cerulea

A plant for the affected person gardener, however well worth the wait.  Check out the next recommendations on rising caraway vegetation.

Sun and Temperature

Caraway grows greatest in cool temperate climates preferring a full solar location. Plants will tolerate hotter zones with ample irrigation and shade through the hottest a part of the day.  Suitable to develop in USDA zones 3-10. In colder climates vegetation die again over the winter months. Freezing temperatures shouldn’t be an issue, but when doubtful a very good winter mulch will defend shallow roots or buds from frost. 

Water and Humidity

Maintain constant soil moisture for younger vegetation within the first yr. Plants are extra drought-resistant of their second yr however should not be allowed to dry out fully.  Water early within the morning utilizing timed drip hoses if out there. A watering can or hose with water directed on the soil and never the leaves may even work.  Watering when vegetation are dormant in winter isn’t obligatory, though test container-grown vegetation in case they dry out.


Plant caraway in wealthy, sandy loam well-drained soil.  Add loads of good high quality compost, leaf mulch, or well-rotted manure in spring earlier than sowing to provide your vegetation a head begin.  Repeat the next spring earlier than the primary shoots break the soil.  A protecting mulch in fall in very chilly areas could assist forestall frost harm. Soil pH must be within the vary of 6.5 to 7.


When seedlings are a couple of inches tall give them a liquid seaweed or nitrogen-rich feed to encourage lush, wholesome progress within the first yr. Repeat a couple of instances all through the rising season. It’s time to spice up flower and seed manufacturing when flower buds start to type the next spring. Use a potassium-rich fertilizer for fruit and flower growth reminiscent of a very good high quality tomato feed.


No pruning is required for caraway except you’re rising for flowers solely.  If that is the case, you’ll be able to deadhead the flowers as they fade to encourage an extended blooming interval and possibly even a second flush.


Caraway is propagated from seed.  Like most umbellifers, greatest outcomes are achieved when utilizing recent caraway seed.  Seed germinates between one and two weeks. 

Sow seeds into module trays utilizing a general-purpose compost, ½ inch (1cm) deep.  Keep the compost moist however not moist. Seeds might be sown immediately exterior into beds ready with wealthy natural matter in spite of everything threat of frost has handed. Keep compost moist whereas seedlings set up of their first yr.   

Harvesting And Storing

Caraway seeds
Caraway seeds are a well-liked addition to breads or sausage. Source: UnconventionalEmma

If that you must wait two seasons to reap the fruits of your labor it’s necessary to get it proper! Here are some ideas to assist. 


Harvest caraway leaves as soon as vegetation are established of their first yr.  Don’t over harvest the leaves as vegetation rely upon them for photosynthesis to supply flowers and seeds the next yr.  Seed heads are prepared to reap when seeds flip from golden yellow to brown.  Simply snip off the stem and produce them indoors to make use of within the kitchen and put together for storage.  Once the seeds are harvested it’s time to dig up that pretty root.  Caraway roots have a pleasant earthy taste and might be ready in the identical means as different root greens. 


Hang seed heads the wrong way up someplace cool and lined in a paper bag to catch any ripened seeds that fall.  Once fully dry, retailer in an hermetic container for as much as a yr.  Caraway root is greatest used quickly after harvesting however ought to retailer as much as per week someplace cool and darkish.  Leaves are additionally greatest used recent however will retailer nicely within the fridge for a couple of days.


Caraway is usually a trouble-free plant however simply in case, listed here are a couple of potential points to look out for.

Growing Problems

Growing caraway can require persistence. So, one rising drawback is to know that it takes two seasons to achieve harvest and never to surrender in your vegetation or dig them up considering the crop failed.  Another potential problem is to not let the soil dry out fully and to present noon shade when situated in a sizzling local weather.  Plants will start to wilt if scorched and dehydrated.


Aphids will assault the brand new progress of younger creating caraway vegetation and new shoots within the second yr. Aphids (Aphidoidea) are small, sticky, yellow, inexperienced, and black bugs that feed on the sap of latest progress.  Encourage plenty of useful bugs into the backyard by planting a wide variety of wildflowers and umbellifers reminiscent of coriander.  Spray with an natural insecticidal cleaning soap or neem oil.  Squishing aphids with fingers or a fast blast of water may also help scale back numbers. 

Parsley caterpillars are one other pest that may have an effect on caraway vegetation.  Covering crops with insect mesh will present safety from the attractive however unwelcomed swallowtail butterflies that lay their eggs on the host vegetation.  Picking caterpillars off by hand is straightforward and fast to do and offers a pleasant dinner for native birds. BT is an efficient option to get rid of larval populations which have already reached the plant.

Caraway might be affected by the carrot rust fly which lays eggs on the base of vegetation and the hatching larvae feed on the foundation leaving ugly holes within the flesh.  If you aren’t rising caraway for roots, then don’t fear because the plant is not going to be harmed.  Cover crops with insect mesh to guard from grownup flies.  Avoid rising carrot and parsnip close by that are additionally affected by the carrot rust fly.  Sticky traps may even assist to cut back grownup numbers, but when your crops are already affected you’ll be able to strive nematodes to deal with on the larvae stage.


Aster yellow virus, also referred to as aster yellows, is a illness that causes stunted progress and malformation of leaves and yellowing of stems and flowers which in the end don’t attain maturity.  The illness is unfold by leafhopper bugs. To management the illness it’s essential to management the leafhoppers within the backyard. Use sticky traps, protecting covers and encourage useful bugs into the backyard to regulate leafhopper numbers. Insecticidal cleaning soap and neem oil can be utilized to vegetation.  Remove contaminated vegetation at first sight of the illness to maintain it from spreading.

Frequently Asked Questions

Caraway flowers
Delicate clusters of caraway flowers. Source: detsugu

Q: What is caraway used for?

A: Caraway seeds can be utilized to taste bread, desserts, and biscuits and might be added to soups, stews, and casseroles so as to add an anise kick.  Leaves can be utilized in salads and the foundation might be eaten like different root greens.

Q: Where do caraway vegetation develop?

A: Grow caraway in cool temperate climates in moist, fertile, and well-drained soils.

Q: Are caraway leaves edible?

A: ​​The leaves of the caraway plant are edible however barely bitter to style.

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