Caraway is a herb that’s best known for its aromatic seeds. Caraway is often grown for its thin, crescent-shaped seeds but all parts of the caraway plant are edible—leaves, stems, seeds, and roots. It is a biennial herb best known for aromatic fruit that is called a seed, and used as a spice. Its flavor is distinctly pungent, with anise and licorice undertones. The caraway seed is popular in rye bread. And while the seeds are popular, the similarly fragrant leaves as well as the roots are edible.
Companion Planting for Caraway
Caraway grows well with most vegetables. It does not grow well near fennel. It is a good companion to peas. Caraway flowers attract beneficial insects including predatory wasps that attack tomato hornworms. Caraway is an aromatic member of the Umbelliferae family that attracts beneficial insects like bees and hoverflies to its blossoms, helping to control insect pests such as aphids and caterpillars. Consider companion planting with vegetables, especially peas. As a legume, peas function as “nitrogen fixer,” adding essential nitrogen to the soil if you plow them under at season’s end.
Planting: Caraway thrives in full sun and well drained soil. Does best in full sun. Grows best with 6-8 hours sun, but partial sun location works well also.
Watering: Keep well water in the summer months. Basil needs well-drained soil.
Fertilizer: Plant in a well-drained soil enriched with compost, aged manure, or other organic materials. Fertilize after seedlings are about 4 inches.
Days to Maturity: Can harvest leaves around 60-90 days. Seedlings emerge in 14-21 days.
Size: Caraway can grow to about 24″‘ tall. Plant can become very bushy and spread.
Harvesting: In the first year, it produces roots and foliage, and dies to the ground at season’s end. In the second, the foliage becomes bushy, and may reach beyond 2′. It produces an “umbel” (think umbrella) arrangement of tiny pink or white florets that make up a flat-topped flower head. At season’s end, the seeds brown and are ready for harvesting. If it is not harvested, the seed falls and remains dormant until it germinates the following spring.
Tips: In warmer regions, you may raise Caraway as an annual. When planted in late fall, it flowers and sets fruit the following spring. Caraway has long roots that can help break down and condition heavy soils which makes it generally a good companion for any shallow rooted plants. Caraway is a sound garden investment. It not only provides you with delicious, aromatic seed, it contributes to the biological control of undesirable insects, which is a key component of integrated pest management systems.
Cooking with Caraway:Toasted caraway seeds are a flavorful addition to loaves of bread and salads, but the earthy fennel and anise taste is mild until the seed is cooked or dry roasted.