Growing Crops: Caraway

Caraway seeds, so prevalent in rye bread the world over, are not the only part of the caraway plant that can be eaten. The leaves and shoots make a tasty addition to salads, and the roots, much like carrots or parsnips, can be slivered or diced and added to soups.

Caraway is one of the biennial herbs, meaning that it will flower and produce seeds the second year after planting. You will want to plan very carefully where you wish to grow your caraway, and sow seeds each year so that you are assured an annual harvest. You can order caraway seeds here:

Be sure to read Growing Herbs 101 in conjunction with this post.

Best Climate to Grow: Most temperate climates that are neither excessively hot and dry nor cold and wet. Light-frost tolerant. Mulching will protect young plants during their first winter, if you live in a colder climate.

Light Requirements: Lots of sun.

Soil Requirements: Rich, fertile soil that drains well, with a slightly alkaline pH around 7.5. Amend as needed, particularly if your native soil is heavy clay – it will need to be lightened considerably.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Fertilize with compost or rotted manure just prior to planting as well as the following Spring. Soil should be moist but not soggy. Drip irrigation is not necessary unless you live in an excessively dry climate or are experiencing a drought.

When to Plant: Caraway can be planted any time from late Spring to early Fall.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Caraway seedlings do not transplant well. Sow the seeds directly in the ground a ½ inch deep, either by broadcasting over a specific area or in rows that are 18 inches apart. Once the seedlings appear, thin them to 6-8 inches apart.

Container Requirements: Not recommended for container gardening.

Harvesting and Storage: Snip the leaves and shoots with a pair of garden shears to use fresh in salads during the first year when the plants are still young and tender. The roots can be harvested at the end of the second year, in the Fall, when you are pulling up the plants anyway.

Harvesting Seeds: The seeds can either be harvested for eating or for planting the following year. Keep an eye on your caraway plants once the flower heads begin to form during the second year, as you will need to collect the seeds once they are ripe but before the seed pods (each pod contains 2 seeds) fall. Either use the seeds right away in cooking and baking or let the seeds dry completely and then store in a cool, dry place to either use in the kitchen or replant the following season.

Pests to Monitor: Birds and Mites. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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