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,.
The scientific name of caraway is, Carum carvi.
|Caraway (Carum carvi) seeds. Note for slightly curved cumin like brown seeds.|
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.
In addition to their utility as remedial items in the traditional medicines, caraway seeds have their own food value, and indeed, have many health benefiting nutrients, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Caraway seeds are 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 has health benefiting flavonoid antioxidants such as lutein, carotene, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin. These compounds indeed work as powerful antioxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body and thus protect from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
Caraway spice is 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.
Caraway seeds can be available year around in the markets either in the form of seeds or milled-powder forms. In the store, buy whole caraway seeds instead of its powder since, often it may contain adulterated spicy powders.
Once at home, store in cool, dry, dark place inside air sealed containers for many months, and can be milled using an hand-mill whenever required. Ground and powdered caraway should be stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers and should be utilized as early as possible since it loses its flavor rather quickly.
Caraway water sometimes used in treating flatulence and indigestion in traditional medicines, especially used to relieve infantile colic.
It also used in pharmaceuticals as a flavoring agent in mouthwash and gargle preparations.
Caraway extraction is used as a rubefacient (to soothe muscle sores), clear the cold, as a remedy for bronchitis and irritable bowel syndrome in many traditional medicines. (Medical disclaimer).
|Marinated cheese with onion and caraway
Photo courtesy: wordridden
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.
Here are some serving tips:
Caraway seed employed widely as a savory spice. It principally added in cooking as a condiment and flavoring base.
It features in savory dishes, including cabbage soups, sauerkraut, and salads.
Caraway gives a pleasant aroma to bread, cakes, biscuits, and cheese. In France, the seeds offered in a saucer to sprinkle over Munster cheese before eating.
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, just as other fellow spices, should be used in small amounts. Too much of spices in the food can cause gastrointestinal irritation and stomach ulcers.(Medical Disclaimer).
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