(Carum carui, Linn.), a biennial or an annual herb of the

natural order Umbelliferae. Its names, both popular and botanical, are

supposed to be derived from Caria, in Asia Minor, where the plant is

believed first to have attracted attention. From very early ages the

caraway has been esteemed by cooks and doctors, between which a friendly

rivalry might seem to exist, each vying to give it prominence. At the

present time
the cooks seem to be in the ascendancy; the seeds or their

oil are rarely used in modern medicine, except to disguise the flavor of

repulsive drugs.

Since caraway seeds were found by O'Heer in the debris of the lake

habitations of Switzerland, the fact seems well established that the

plant is a native of Europe and the probability is increased that the

Careum of Pliny is this same plant, as its use by Apicus would also

indicate. It is mentioned in the twelfth-century writings as grown in

Morocco, and in the thirteenth by the Arabs. As a spice, its use in

England seems to have begun at the close of the fourteenth century. From

its Asiatic home it spread first with Phoenician commerce to western

Europe, whence by later voyageurs it has been carried throughout the

civilized world. So widely has it been distributed that the traveler may

find it in the wilds of Iceland and Scandinavia, the slopes of sunny

Spain, the steeps of the Himalayas, the veldt of southern Africa, the

bush of Australia, the prairies and the pampas of America.

Caraway is largely cultivated in Morocco, and is an important article of

export from Russia, Prussia, and Holland. It has developed no clearly

marked varieties; some specimens, however, seem to be more distinctly

annual than others, though attempts to isolate these and thus secure a

quick-maturing variety seem not to have been made.

Description.--The fleshy root, about 1/2 inch in diameter, is

yellowish externally, whitish within, and has a slight carroty taste.

From it a rosette of finely pinnated leaves is developed, and later the

sparsely leaved, channeled, hollow, branching flower stem which rises

from 18 to 30 inches and during early summer bears umbels of little

white flowers followed by oblong, pointed, somewhat curved, light brown

aromatic fruits--the caraway "seeds" of commerce. These retain their

germinating power for about three years, require about 10,000 seeds to

make an ounce and fifteen ounces to the quart.

Cultivation.--Frequently, if not usually, caraway is sown together

with coriander in the same drills on heavy lands during May or early

June. The coriander, being a quick-maturing plant, may be harvested

before the caraway throws up a flowering stem. Thus two crops may be

secured from the same land in the same time occupied by the caraway

alone. Ordinary thinning to 6 or 8 inches between plants is done when

the seedlings are established. Other requirements of the crop are all

embraced in the practices of clean cultivation.

Harvest occurs in July of the year following the seeding. The plants are

cut about 12 inches above ground with sickles, spread on sheets to dry

for a few days, and later beaten with a light flail. After threshing,

the seed must be spread thinly and turned daily until the last vestige

of moisture has evaporated. From 400 to 800 pounds is the usual range of


If seed be sown as soon as ripe, plants may be secured which mature

earlier than the main crop. Thus six or eight weeks may be saved in the

growing season, and by continuing such selection a quick-maturing strain

may be secured with little effort. This would also obviate the trouble

of keeping seed from one year to the next, for the strain would be

practically a winter annual.

Uses.--Occasionally the leaves and young shoots are eaten either

cooked or as an ingredient in salads. The roots, too, have been esteemed

in some countries, even more highly than the parsnip, which, however,

largely because of its size, has supplanted it for this purpose. But the

seeds are the important part. They find popular use in bread, cheese,

liquors, salads, sauces, soups, candy, and especially in seed cakes,

cookies and comfits. The colorless or pale yellow essential oil

distilled with water from the seeds, which contain between 5% and 7-1/2%

of it, has the characteristic flavor and odor of the fruit. It is

extensively employed in the manufacture of toilet articles, such as

perfumery, and especially soaps.