Caraway has both medicinal and culinary properties. The essential oils contained in the seeds have a positive effect on the gastrointestinal tract, aiding in the digestion of fatty foods, in calming a “nervous” stomach, and in relieving stomach cramps. In Europe, digestive aids containing caraway are a popular natural medicine choice.
The seeds are one of the signature spices in the cuisines of Austria and southern Germany, where they are used to flavor meats (mainly pork), breads, vegetables (Sauerkraut), and soups. In Scandinavian countries caraway is used to make Akvavit, whereas in Baltic countries and in Germany it is used for Allasch, a sweet liqueur that is served chilled. Both are served as after-dinner drinks to aid digestion.
What To Look For
Caraway seeds are sold whole and ground. Whole seeds are usually preferable due to their more intense flavor. Tightly sealed, they have a long shelf life of up to four years with little or no loss of aroma.
How To Use It
The seeds are almost always used whole, and can be added to dishes without any crushing or grinding. Their aroma can be enhanced by briefly roasting them in a little oil. In order to achieve their maximum flavor, they should be added to dishes at least ten minutes before the cooking process is finished. Caraway pairs extremely well with garlic, and lends itself beautifully in spice rubs and marinades for pork roast or pork loin. Other popular uses include rye bread, Austrian Wachauerweckerln (small breads studded with whole caraway seeds) and Salzstangerln (breadsticks sprinkled with coarse salt and caraway seeds), and Sauerkraut.