(Last Updated on : 13/03/2009)
Caraway is Persian cumin which possesses the botanical name Carum carvi Linn and belongs to the family of Umbellifereae. This is an annual or biennial glabrous herb which is commonly found in the regions of Himachal Pradesh in India. The plant grows wild and is cultivated mostly in the hills as summer crop at an altitude of 2,740 to 3,660 meters and in plains of North India as annual winter crop. The plant is known by different languages all over the country. It is called Shia Jira or Siya Zira in Hindi. Caraway is known as Sushavi in Sanskrit, Sada Jira or Sa-Zira in Bengali, Shime Jeerige in Kannada, Gunyun in Kashmiri, Shima Jirakam in Malayalam, Wilayati Zirah in Marathi, Zira-siah in Punjabi, Kalu daru in Sindhi, Shimai Shembu in Tamil and Sima Jirakaia in Telugu.
Caraway is one of the herbs renowned for its excellence of its aromatic dried seeds. These seeds are used as a condiment and an aid to digestion. Caraway is believed to have originated from Arab and later cultivated in India. The plant is grown in warm, sunny locations and well-drained soil. The plant usually has a fleshy root and a slender branched stem that attains a height of 0.5 to 0.6 meters; the compound, pinnate leaves are divided into very narrow segments; the small white flowers are borne in flat compound umbels; the fruit when ripe, splits into narrow, elongated carpels 4 to 6.5 mm long, curved, pointed at the ends, and with five longitudinal ridges on the surface. This spice thrives in temperate climate and prefers moderately light clay soil that is well tilled and rich in humus.
The roots of the Caraway are spindle-shaped , thick and the branches are grooved and hollow. The flowers are in dense white umbels and the schizocarp of fruits is yellowish brown in colour and oblong-oval in shape. The dried fruit or seed is brown in colour, has a pleasant odour, aromatic flavour, warm and a little sharp taste. Seeds are hard sharp to the touch. They are free from stalk ends. Caraway seed is available whole or ground. The seeds, on steam distillation, yield an aromatic essential oil (4 to 6 percent), which finds greater use in medicines than the seeds as such.
In India, the fruits are collected before ripening. Well-ripened fruits may also be reaped in the early mornings when the plants are bathed in dew; otherwise many seeds fall during harvesting itself. The plants are dried and the fruits threshed out, cleaned and stored in bags and the yield is variable. Caraway oil is distilled from fresh seeds and it is colourless or pale yellow oil. Carvone content of oil is 45 to 65 percent. Caraway grown in Kashmir gives oil. It is a volatile oil that contains a mixture of ketone, Carvone; a terpene formerly called carvene but now recognized to be dl-limonene and traces of carvacrol. Pure Carvone is prepared by decomposing the crystalline compound of Carvone with hydrogen sulfide.
Caraway is widely used as a spice for culinary purposes and for flavouring bread, biscuits, cakes and cheese. Carvone isolated from caraway oil is used as anthelmintic in hookworm disease. Caraway oil is used chiefly for flavouring purposes and in medicine as a carminative. Caraway or "Caraway seed" is popular for its commercial purpose. This fruit is known as seed because they look like seed. Caraway seed oil is also used for scenting of soaps.
The composition of Caraway seed include Moisture 4.5 percent, Protein 7. 6 percent, Fat: 8.8 percent, Fiber: 25.2 percent, Carbohydrates: 50.2 percent, Total ash: 3.7 percent,
Calcium: 1.0 percent, Phosphorus: 0.11 percent, Sodium: 0.02 percent, Potassium: 1.9 percent, Iron: 0.09 percent, Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 0.38 mg/100g, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin):0.38 mg/100g, Niacin: 8.1 mg/100g. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid):12.0 mg/100g, Vitamin A: 580 I.U, Calorific value (food energy):465 per 100g of spice.