Caraway seeds can be used to flavor sweet or savory dishes, and also to treat certain mild ailments. We’ll show you how caraway seeds are used in the kitchen and in natural medicine.
What Are Caraway Seeds?
Caraway seeds aren’t seeds at all, but the dried fruit, or achenes, of the caraway plant. An achene is a small pod produced by a flowering plant that contains a single seed, but does not open once the plant reaches maturity. Because the fruit wall dries out and so closely encloses the seed, achenes are often thought to be the seeds of the plant themselves.
The caraway plant is a member of the carrot family and native to western Asia, Europe, and North Africa. Caraway seeds have a mild anise flavor, and are featured across many traditional cuisines. They are a key ingredient in rye bread, and are used to season everything from sauerkraut to cheese to pudding to schnapps.
In the United States, the most common use for caraway seeds is in rye bread. The seeds are also an ingredient for Irish soda bread, which is popular around Saint Patrick’s Day. But this spice is used in many different international cuisines, in both sweet and savory dishes. It is highly aromatic and has a nutty, peppery flavor with a distinct anise note.
In Germany, the seeds are used to flavor sauerkraut, pork, sausages, potatoes, and cheese. In Britain, caraway seed cake is a traditional favorite. In Norwegian and Swedish cuisine, they are used to make caraway black bread. Meghli, a popular Middle Eastern dessert, is also flavored with the seeds. In some places, like Russia, Scandinavia, and Iceland, these little dried fruits are also used to make strong liquors.
But caraway seeds are not only used in Europe. Indian food also strongly features this spice: it is an important ingredient in any masala, and is also used to flavor rice dishes and bread. Caraway has also long been used in India as a breath freshener after meals.
You want to try some of these specialties? Then make them yourself:
- Vegan recipe for St. Patrick’s bread
- The BBC’s recipe for rye bread with caraway seeds
- A traditional European recipe for Sauerkraut
Caraway Seeds: Benefits and Medicinal Properties
Traditionally, caraway seeds have been used in holistic medicine to treat digestive problems, like bloating, heartburn, gas, and mild spasms of the stomach and intestines. They are also known to be rich in antioxidants and have long been valued for their antibacterial properties. The seeds are also the main ingredient in traditional anti-obesity medicine, the positive effects of which have been confirmed in two modern human clinical trials.
Caraway seeds are also packed with vitamins and minerals. This spice is an excellent source of:
- Vitamin A, E, and C
- B-complex vitamins like niacin and thiamin
- Dietary fiber
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