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Botanical name: Carum Carvi
Hindi Name: Shahi jeera
Caraway is common in Europe and Asia, and naturalised in Britain. It is an ancient spice of Central Europe, but is mostly produced and consumed in northern Germany and Scandinavia. It is extensively cultivated in Holland, Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, Russia, Syria and Morocco.
It grows wild in the north Himalayan regions of India, and cultivated in the hills of Kashmir and the Kumaon hills as a summer crop. The plant, with a fleshy root, grows to a height of half metre. The slender stem has thin branches. The leaves are divided into very narrow parts.
The ripe fruit splits into narrow, elongated carpels that are curved and pointed at the ends. The fruit has five longitudinal ridges on its surface. The dried fruit or seed is brown in colour. The presence of caravone in the fruit gives it a sharp taste. It has a pleasant odour and an aromatic flavour.
Its composition is as follows:
An aromatic essential oil is extracted from the seeds. Caraway oil is colourless or pale yellow in colour.
Caraway is often recognised as the most typical spice of the German-speaking countries. Caraway gives southern German and Austrian foods, be it meat, vegetable or rye bread, their characteristic flavour. German Sauerkraut is always flavoured with caraway and juniper. Caraway is also used in the cuisines of North Africa, mostly in Tunisia.
Caraway is aromatic, stimulant and carminative. It was widely used as a cordial to ease dyspepsia and hysterical. The oil is used externally to treat flatulence and stomach disorders. Infants with flatulent colic are administered distilled caraway water.
In ancient days, the bruised fruits were used to remove pain from bad earache, and was also used as a poultice for bruises. It is widely used to treat hookworms, scabies and bad breath. It is used also as a flavouring for cheeses and seed-cakes.
The caraway leaves are sometimes used in salads, cabbage, cream soups and cauliflower-potato dishes. They are also widely used in biscuits and crackers, candies and cookies.
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