Fruit and Essential

The flowers occur in pairs that grow into double fruits which separate when drying out at maturity. The traditional winter type grows fruits that shatter when dry ripe due to an abscission layer in the stalk (Figures 1a-c). The absence of the abscission layer results in the 'non-shattering' (NS) fruit (Figure 1d).

Caraway essential oil is excreted and stored in specialised vessels called vittae located in the fruit exocarp separated by a few cell layers only from the open air. The oil is thus embedded in a maternal tissue and indeed a product of maternal origin. (This is in contrast to seed oils made up of glycerol and fatty acids such as rape oil are tucked away inside the cells of seed tissues such as endosperm or cotyledons and consequentiy have a zygotic origin.)

The oil consists of two main components, both monoterpenes: S-(+)-carvone and S-(+)-limonene, making up from 50-60% and 35-45% of the total respectively, the remainder consisting of a mixture of compounds. Carvone in particular is biologically active and has a variety of potential uses. It is by far the most interesting component, hence the efforts to develop both potential products and markets (Toxopeus and Bouwmeester 1993).

The biochemical pathway shows that limonene is the progenitor of carvone and is converted into carvone enzymatically.

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