Caraway is most often grown for its seeds, but the root and leaves are also edible. Caraway is a biennial plant that produces seeds the second season after planting. The first season it forms a rosette of leaves 8 to 10 inches tall that resembles a carrot with a long tap root. The second season the plant grows to 2 to 3 feet tall and produces a large, flat-topped flower head with white flowers.
Caraway is grown from seed and prefers a full sun location in well-drained soil with a high percentage of organic matter. Caraway is best directly sown in the garden as it is difficult to transplant successfully. Keep seed bed moist as seed is slow to germinate. Plants also benefit from soils that are kept uniformly moist. The first season the plant will produce a rosette of foliage resembling carrot and then the plant will die back with frosts. In the spring, growth will resume and the plant will flower and develop a seed stalk.
All parts of the plant can be harvested for culinary use. Roots can be dug when plants are young. Fresh leaves can be harvested as needed and seeds can be harvested and dried after the seed heads turn from a green to brown. Place the seed heads in a paper bag in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location to dry. Separate the seeds from the seed head by rubbing them between your hands. Before storing, make sure seeds are thoroughly dry.
Roots of caraway can be boiled and used like parsnips or carrot. Fresh leaves can be harvested as needed and used in salads, soups, and stews or eaten like spinach. Seeds are used in baking, slaws, cheese, and potato dishes. Caraway offers a licorice flavor.
Illinois Extension photo: Herb Gardening | Caraway