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Caraway is a biennial, devoting its first year to the production of fern-like leaves and producing pretty white flowers, tinged with pink, in the second year. If leaves and roots are to be used, grow several plants so that one or two can be allowed to produce seeds in year two. Plants grow up to 60cm in height and will happily self-seed.
Sow: your caraway seeds direct in Spring or Autumn, 5cm deep, in a sunny, sheltered position and in well-drained, fairly fertile soil. Alternatively, sow in bio-degradable pots (as the roots do not like to be disturbed) if plants are to be moved or grown on in a pot on the patio.
Aftercare: Thin to 20cm apart when seedlings are large enough to handle.
Harvest: the leaves while the plant is young and the roots in the Autumn of the first year of growth, after which they will become woody. Harvest the seed following flowering. Collect the seed heads when the seed turns brown, and hang upside down in a paper bag until the seeds fall.
Leaves, which have an almost bitter taste, can be used sparingly in salads, soups and stews. The roots, which are sweet and reminiscent of parsnip, are delicious roasted and the seeds are traditionally used in bread and cake making, baked fruit, chutneys and pickles. Caraway is also thought to have numerous medical properties.
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