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Carum. Umbelliferae. Some 30 species of glabrous biennials and perennials. Leaves 2-4-pinnate, segments usually narrow. Umbels compound; involucre and involucel of few to several bracts or bracteoles, or absent; calyx of minute teeth or absent; flowers white or tinged pink; petals obovate, emarginate. Fruit ovoid or oblong, compressed; mericarp with fine or prominent ridges. Temperate to subtropical.


Carum carvi occurs in meadowland and other grassy habitats and as an escape, is naturalised on waste ground. It is cultivated in the herb garden for its aromatic and finely divided ferny leaves, and for the distinctively liquorice-flavoured seed. Roots are sometimes eaten prepared in much the same way as parsnip or carrots. Grow in full sun, in deep, fertile, well-drained soil; Carum carvi tolerates heavy soils, and may self-seed to the point of nuisance. Growing in pots can serve as a control measure. Propagate from seed sown in situ, when ripe or in early spring. Caraway does not transplant well. Harvest seed when it begins to darken in colour.

Carum carvi   

CARAWAY. Glabrous biennial to 60cm; stems slender, striate. Leaves 2-3-pinnate, segments to 2.5cm, linear-lanceolate to linear, often pinnatifid; petiole short, base sheathing. Umbels compound, to 4cm diameter; rays 5-16, unequal; involucre of few bracts often absent; involucel of few bracteoles or absent; flowers mostly bisexual, white, occasionally pink. Fruit 3-6mm; mericarp with five slender, rounded ridges. Summer. Europe, W Asia, naturalised N US. Z3.

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