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A biennial plant of the celery family. Caraway has seeds with an aromatic odor and a slightly spicy flavor. In the wild, it grows in drier meadows, roadsides, field margins and glades. Wild, non-cultivar seeds.
Polish name: common cumin, Chuck, crenate
Latin name: Carum carvi L.
Family: the celeries Apiaceae (umbellifers Umbeliferae)
Status in Poland: native
A great plant that usually grows as a biennial, only in dry and infertile places as a 3-4-year perennial (hemicryptophyte), forming a taproot in the first year of life and a rosette of pinnate basal leaves. Also, polyploid forms are more long-lived too.
The root of the caraway is fusiform, whitish, and quite thick.
Stem with inflorescence, up to 100 cm high, hollow inside, ribbed, grows in the second year. Leaves di- or tripinnate with sheathy petioles arranged alternately. The petioles of the rosette and lower leaves are long, and the upper leaves are sessile.
White flowers, sometimes with a pink tinge, clustered in second-order umbels, consist of 5-10 umbellules grown on stalks of unequal length. Individual caraway flowers with five-part symmetry: 5 sepals and 5 corolla petals, 5 stamens, but only 2 pistils. They form in May and June.
The fruit is a longitudinally furrowed, sickle-shaped mericarp. Breaking into two, gray or brown, aromatic, unequal size achenes (3–6 mm long and 1–2 mm wide) with slightly spicy taste, and 5 ribs on the surface.
In Poland, caraway thrives in fertile, warm, and moist soils.
Achenes are sown from March to April, and by June at the latest.
Cumin is often grown in polyculture, at the same time as annual vegetables or herbs, especially peas, coriander, and black cumin.
Caraway is an primeval spice and medicinal herb. It has a bactericidal, antispasmodic and mild laxative effect. To this day, it is an important ingredient of soaps, shampoos, and lotions. In Poland, it is eagerly added to sauerkraut, fatty and mealy dishes (pastries, omelettes, stews, baked cheeses, potato cutlets), bread, many soups (sauerkraut soup, mushroom soup, potato soup) as well as liqueurs and vodkas.
Caraway straw is a valuable feed additive, especially for cattle and sheeps, because it increases their milk yield.
In Ancient history and the Middle Ages, caraway was more widely used, the root and leaves were also eaten.
Willingly visited by bees, it can locally be an important component of the feed base near the apiary.