Caraway is a bi-annual herb that originated from Asia Minor, but is now cultivated in Northern Europe, Africa and Russia. It grows up to 60cm (2 feet) and has soft fern-like leaves, umbels of white/pink flowers and small brown fruit. This warming essential oil helps to relieve mental strain and emotional fatigue, while aiding the digestive and urinary system and clearing the respiratory system. At the same time it also fights skin and scalp conditions.

The primary medical benefit of caraway is its effect on digestion. It is a carminative which means it helps with gas and digestion. It is helpful to chew caraway seeds after a heavy meal. It has been used for colic as it is a light sedative and it can be used to settle a queasy stomach (antispasmodic).

The following is a tasty spread that can be used on bread, crackers or with salads and a healthy cake to have for a snack.

Caraway Cheese Spread

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
3 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp caraway seed and white pepper to taste

Blend together and store in refrigerator.

Caraway Seed Cake

1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
1/4lb soft butter, plus extra for greasing
6 tblsp caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 350F Butter a round cake pan or loaf tin, and line with greaseproof paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder together. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding 1 tsp of flour with each egg to prevent the mix curdling. When the eggs are well incorporated, gently stir in the rest of the flour. Then stir in the milk mixed with the vanilla extract. Stir in the caraway seeds, mixing lightly.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Serve in wedges or slices, spread with plenty of butter. This cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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