Caraway seeds are also known as Persian cumin, and they do look almost identical to cumin seeds, but taste more like anise. Be careful! Caraway seeds are slightly curved, like tiny half moons, whereas cumin seeds are flat.
The name comes from the Arabic,al-karwiya, and not as Pliny thought, from Caria in Asia Minor. He probably believed this as the Latin name for caraway is carvi.
Archaeologists discovered caraway seeds in a rubbish dump, dating back 8000 years, while excavating in Switzerland, so these seeds have been around for a long time. The Romans combined them with milk to make bread, and they’re still used in rye bread today Coated with sugar they were served with fruit in the Middle Ages. They were recorded in the papyrus of Thebes, a medical text, in 1500BC, or thereabouts.Dioscorides believed they aided digestion, and modern studies show that they are a good digestive. The Germans make Kummel, the liqueur with them.
In German folklore, they were supposed to keep sleeping children safe. If some caraway seeds were placed under their beds, they would be safe from witches. In other folk tales we are told that they should be added to a love potion to keep the loved one from straying. If they were added to chicken feed or put in a dove cote, these birds wouldn’t stray either. One other belief was that if something contained caraway seeds it couldn’t be taken out of the house by a thief, but rather, would imprison the thief, so he would be captured.
Shakespeare mentions caraway seeds in his history play, Henry V, when Squire Shallow invites Falstaff to sample ‘a pippin and a dish of caraways’. Roast apples with caraway seeds were popular in his day.
What do you do with them? Well you can make seed cake with them like my grandmother used to do, but it’s dry and an acquired taste, I think. You can mix them in with your favourite potato salad recipe or you could try the recipe below, which is a side dish, good with chicken or with salads.
CUCUMBER AND CARAWAY SEEDS
50 gr butter or olive oil
1 tsp sesame seed oil
1 large cucumber, sliced
1 tsp caraway seeds
a few fronds of fresh dill shredded
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
In a frying pan melt the butter or oil and the sesame oil, and fry the slices of cucumber with the caraway seeds for a few minutes until the slices become transparent.
Remove from the heat and pour into a shallow serving dish. Sprinkle with the seasonings, garnish with dill and serve warm or cold.
This has Taste and is a Treat.