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Caraway seed nutrition facts

In the traditional Europian cuisine, caraway seed is one of the dominant spices featuring in several savory dishes. Strongly aromatic, caraway is a member in the parsley or Umbelliferae family; a large family of plants that also includes commonly known herbs and spices such as dill, anise,fennel, cumin, etc.

Scientific name of caraway is, Carum carvi.

caraway seeds-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 biennial, herbaceous plant which blooms once in every two years to creamy flowers appearing in umbels. It grows to about two feet in height and bears small feathery leaves. Caraway seeds, having similar in appearance as that of cumin, are crescent in shape, dark brown, with up to five stripes (ribs) running lengthwise on their surface.

Caraway generally harvested during early hours of the day to avoid spilliing of its seeds in th field. They are then staked in bundles and left to dry under sunlight. The seeds extracted by threshing, either mannually or using machines.

Health benefits of caraway seeds

  • In addition to their utility in traditional medicines, caraway seeds have their own food value, and indeed, have several health benefiting nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.

  • Caraway seeds are rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 38 g of fiber, 100% of daily recommended intake of fiber. Soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber increase bulk of the food and help prevent constipation by speeding up its movement through the gut. In fact, gastro-intestinal transit time of food is greatly decreased.

  • Fiber also binds to toxins in the food and helps protect the colon mucusa from cancers. Further, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon, and thus help in reducing serum LDL cholesterol levels.

  • Caraway contains several health benefiting essential oils. Principle volatile compounds are carvone, limonene, carveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol, and thujone. These active principles in the caraway seeds known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.

  • Caraway has several health benefiting flavonoid antioxidnats such as lutein, carotene, crypto-xanthin and zea-xanthin. These compounds are indeed work as powerful anti-oxidants 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, sperm generation, 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 anti-oxidant 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.

Selection and storage

Caraway seeds can be available year around in the markets either in the form of seeds or in milled-powder forms. In the store, buy whole caraway seeds instead of its powder since, oftentimes 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 inside the refrigerator in airtight containers, and should be used as early as possible since it loses its flavor rather quickly.

Medicinal uses

  • Caraway water sometimes used in treating flatulence and indigestion in traditional medicines, especially used to relive 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 in bronchitis and irritable bowel syndrome in many traditional medicines. (Medical disclaimer).

Culinary uses

caraway seeed onion cheese
Marinated cheese with onion and caraway seeds.
Photo courtesy: wordridden

Caraway seeds feature warm, sweet, and slightly peppery aroma when squeezed between index and thumb fingers. Its seeds used extensively in European and Mediterranean cooking.

In order to keep fragrance and flavor intact, caraway seeds generally roasted gently under light heat and ground just before using them in a recipe.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Caraway seed employed widely as a savory spice. It is 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 breads, cakes, biscuits, and cheese. In France, the seeds offered in a saucer to sprinkle over Munster cheese before eating.

  • In addition, 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 staple dish.

Safety profile

Caraway, just as other fellow spices, should be used in small amounts. Too much spices in the food can cause gastrointestinal irritation, and stomach ulcers.(Medical disclaimer).

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Further resources:

1. USDA Agricultural research service.

2. Gernot-Katzer's spice pages.

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