Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Caraway comes from the small herb Carum carvi. There are annual and biennial forms, the first native to central Europe, the second to the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The biennial form develops a taproot the first summer, then flowers and fruits the second; the taproots are sometimes cooked like carrots in northern Europe. Caraway may have been among the first spice plants cultivated in Europe; its seeds were found in ancient Swiss lake dwellings, and have continued to be an important ingredient in Eastern Europe. The distinctive flavor of caraway comes from the terpene D-carvone (which it shares with dill), with citrusy limonene the only other major volatile. Caraway is used in cabbage, potato, and pork dishes, in breads and cheeses, and in the Scandinavian alcohol aquavit.