Caraway seeds are also known as Shajeera or Kala Jeera in Hindi. Caraway seeds are a strongly aromatic dark brown spice. They are crescent in shape and decorated with up to five stripes that run down its length.
Caraway seeds have multiple health benefits, one being their quality of being very rich in dietary fibre. Just 100 g of caraway seeds can provide up to 38 g of fibre which is the daily recommended intake of fibre and thus caraway seeds can help to prevent constipation. Through binding together toxins in food, caraway seeds help to protect the colon membrane from cancers. The oils of caraway seeds also serve antioxidant functions to remove harmful elements in the body to protect it from cancer, aging and degenerative neurological diseases. Caraway seeds also hold an assortment of vitamins A, B and C.
Most commonly, caraway seeds are used in North Indian, European and Mediterranean cooking. Because of their strong aroma that is sweet, anise-like and mildly peppery, they are often used as a savoury condiment to add flavour to soups, breads and cheese in Eastern Europe. A very common use of caraway seeds is in rye bread. They can also be used as substitutes to other seeds like the dill seed, anise seed and cumin seed. Often, caraway seeds are used in small amounts because of their strong aroma and therefore you will find that is used in the making of North Indian briyanis. However, this strong aroma also enables it to be a good spice for seasoning food with strong flavours like polish sausage and pork roast.
Caraway seeds can be purchased both in whole form or in a grounded powder form. However, because other spices can be easily added to grounded caraway powder, it is always better to select whole seeds for better quality. One should select caraway seeds that are dark brown with light brown ridges. In its powder form, caraway seeds should also be dark brown in colour. Because ground caraway easily loses its flavour, it should be purchased in small quantities.
The seeds should be stored in vacuum containers in cool and dark places to ensure that they are kept away from moisture. For ground caraway, it is all the more important to refrigerate it in an air-tight container so as to retain its flavor.