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Caraway (Carum carvi)
Apiaceae (parsley family)
Central Europe to Asia; it is not clear, however, whether caraway is truly indigenous in Europe. Today, it is chiefly cultivated in the Netherlands, Eastern Europe and Germany, furthermore North Africa, particularly Egypt.
Used plant part
Strongly aromatic and warm.
Caraway fruits may contain 3% to 7% essential oil. The aroma of the oil is mostly dominated by carvone (50 to 85%) and limonene (20 to 30%); the other components carveol, dihydrocarveol, a- and ß-pinene, sabinene and perillyl alcohol) are of much minor importance.
Caraway plant with fruits and flowers
Caraway is often recognized the the most typical spice of the German-speaking countries. It is an ancient spice of Central Europe: Caraway fruits have indeed been found in neolithic villages (though that does only prove that the plant grew there, not that caraway was actually utilized), and since Roman times there is plenty of documentation for numerous culinary and medicinal application – not least to mention caraway-flavoured liquor, known as kummel in the USA, that is mostly produced and consumed in Northern Germany and Scandinavia (akvavit). Although caraway is a common plant of Alpine meadows at low elevation, is was grown systematically in medieval monasteries, mainly to to its extremely effective antiflatulent powers; there is still some domestic production of caraway in Germany, although most now stems from Egyptian imports
Caraway is a controversial spice; to many, it appears dominant and unpleasant, especially to those who are not used to a cuisine rich in caraway. Usage of the ground spice is a working compromise; another method is wrapping the fruits in a small piece of linen cloth (or simply a tea bag) so that it can be removed before serving.
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