Never. Not once. And even though I would be thrilled to find it, I already know I would never pick it and use it. It's become so rare that it's protected by law here. That made me ponder.
So, I have a cunning plan (yes, I am a Blackadder fan. And yes, I was actually waiting or an opportunity to use that phrase). But seriously, I have a plan. One you can all help me with.
Nature provides us with so many wonderful wild foods and medicines. How about giving back a little?
Here's the action plan:
- Get yourself a big bag of caraway seeds. Want to know a secret? If you buy them in seed packages to plant in the garden, they'll be a *lot* more expensive than when you buy them as a kitchen spice. In my experience, as long a you buy good quality, organic seeds, they will sprout. If caraway is not native where you live, you can use another plant species. Just think about what rare wild native plant you think of as useful and would like to see more in your area.
- Divide the seeds in smaller portions. You can make seed envelopes or reuse old spice jars with holes in the lid. It's also ridiculously easy to make one yourself, just pierce the metal lid of a small glass jar with a knife or screwdriver and you're ready to sprinkle seeds!
- Choose a nice sunny spot. Yes, this even works in urban micro climates. The best way to do this is while walking or biking (though I know of some people who have been doing this on the highway in their cars). It's nice if you take a place where you pass frequently. This way you can see the landscape evolve, give some extra water if needed, and see the fruits of your action.
- Make small seed envelopes and hand them out as gifts. Seed and plant catalogues, old maps, children's drawings, they all make great seed packages. Give them as birthday gifts, thank you gifts, 'no reason' gifts. A present like this is always appreciated. Tell your friends about what you are doing and why. Involve kids.
- Post your action online #foragersgivingback. You can also use the comments below. The more people are sharing this, the more people will get inspired to participate.
But you probably want to hear some more on caraway as a plant. It's an interesting plant. I thought I knew it. Bit I didn't. Let's see:
English: Caraway, Meridian Fennel, Persian Cumin
Dutch: (Echte) Karwij
French: Carvi, Cumin des Pres
German: (Echter) Kümmel, Wiesen-Kümmel, Gemeiner Kümmel
The seed is a carminative spice, that means it helps digestion, which can be helpful to people dealing with flatulence and bloating.
But it doesn't stop there. It's a biennial plant, meaning that caraway only forms leaves during the first year of its life. Leaves that can be eaten like parley. Am I the only one whose curiosity gets tickled by reading that? There's even more. At the end of that first year, the roots can be eaten like parsnips.
Oh, the joy of new discoveries. It does sound like something we want to try out, right?
The second (and last) year, the plant starts to bloom and form seeds. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could spot these in the wild the way our ancestors did?
It can happen. All it needs is a little action from your side.
And don't think one simple act from you won't make a difference. When I was working on a foraging project in Brussels, we found quite some wild leeks (Allium ampeloprasum). Later I met a man who said he just felt like it should be reintroduced in Brussels and so he started planting. One man.
Or if you really want some inspiration, watch the video below.