Caraway is one of oldest spices known to have been used in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Archeologists have dated the use of caraway in Europe to the Stone Age and it has also been found in Egyptian tombs. The first century Greek physician Dioscorides was known to have made a tonic which could restore color to the cheeks of ladies with pale complexions. And the Emperor Julius Caesar’s favorite bread was apparently a bread made with caraway seeds, known as chara. Caraway is one of the four herbs and spices including anise, coriander and fennel, favored as botanic medicines, known as pharmacopeia, in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Persia and Greece.
Caraway is an aromatic edible plant. Caraway is generally regarded as an herb, however its seeds, which look similar to cumin, are considered to be a spice. The caraway plant is usually biennial but is sometimes grown as an annual. All of the caraway plant is edible, including its leaves, seeds and roots. Caraway has a spicy and fragrant flavor, not as intense as cumin but stronger than dill or coriander. This plant is also highly nutritious, being a source of antioxidants from flavonoids and vitamins. It is also a source of minerals.
The use of caraway in England goes back to the 14th century when it was first included in a cook book complied for King Richard II. By Elizabethan times caraway was often eaten at the end of the meal to cleanse the palate and freshen the breath.
Caraway seeds are an excellent source of the minerals potassium and calcium, as well as phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Caraway is also high in fiber and contains the vitamin’s C, A, E and B complex. Caraway seeds contain phytochemicals which are powerful antioxidants. The most prevalent of which are the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Both help neutralize and remove harmful free radicals from the body. They also help prevent degenerative diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, and assist in repairing DNA.