Caraway (Carum carvi) is a biennial plant native of southern Europe and Asia. It is cultivated in India, Egypt, Arabia and the Mediterranean from ancient times. Fossilized seeds are found in Stone Age sites, which means this herb was used at least 5,000 years. Caraway was found in Egyptian tombs and ancient caravan routes. Caraway powder was used as a black pepper substitute, grounded to a pulp and spread on bread in ancient Rome.
Other names: wild cumin, carvies, carroway.
Caraway is sometimes confused with cumin (Cuminum cyminum) but it is not the same plant or spice. Many European languages do not distinguish clearly between the two.
Caraway is now widely cultivated because it needs only warm, uniform climate. The plant grows to a height of 30 cm and has pale pink flowers. Major countries of production are Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and North Africa countries, especially Egypt.
The seed contains 3-7% aromatic oils that are used in perfume industry. The caraway aroma is dominated by essential oils carvone (50 to 85%) and limonene (20 to 30%), while the other components present are carveol, dihydrocarveol, alpha- and beta-pinene, and sabinene.
This spice is abundantly used in Central Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for both savory and sweet dishes: sprinkled over baked meat, added to the water to cook cabbage, added to apple pies, biscuits, baked apples and cheese.
Raw seeds can be chewed before meals to stimulate digestion, and after meals to aid digestion and refresh breath.
Biggs M.: Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopedia