Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

caraway Carum carvi, a plant cultivated for its ‘seeds’ (the split halves of the dried fruits), which are an important spice, used mainly to flavour breads, especially rye bread, and other bakery goods (see comfits; cake; biscuit; wigs; meringue) but also cheeses (see liptauer; tilsiter; leiden) and pickles. It is an ingredient in the Arabic spice mixture tabil and the N. African paste harissa. The seeds have a warm, sweet, biting taste.

The plant, which is indigenous to W. Asia and the Mediterranean region, may be the oldest cultivated spice plant of Europe. It is now mainly grown in E. and SE Europe, Germany, the Netherlands, N. Africa, and the USA. It is Germans who use it most freely, not only in cakes and breads but also in certain cheeses and pickles and in some meat dishes.