Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated August 8, 2016)
Caraway (or Carum carvi) is one of those ancient herbs that seems to have been found in the youth of mankind. It probably originated somewhere in the Asia Minor region of the world, and was quickly adopted by the early Egyptians as a medicine. In contrast to this, the Romans thought it was an excellent condiment. The Romans loved it so much that their legions carried it with them as far away as the Scottish moors, and was a staple of the gardens in their fortresses. Even to this day, the caraway cake carries the ancient name of carvi cakes.
Traditionally speaking, caraway seeds were thought to have powers which aided digestion. It used to be a favorite after-meal treat to roast some apples with caraway seeds. While the effectiveness of the digestive properties of apples and caraway seeds are open to debate, the taste they produce is not. The combination of these two ingredients works so well, and tastes so good, that we still use the combination today. To help illustrate this point, take a look at the recipes for most apple pies where you are almost certain to find some caraway seeds included.
The caraway herb is actually a member of the parsley family, and is definitely worth growing in a home herb garden. This is because it is fairly easy to grow and doesn't require a whole lot of care. In appearance, it has the same general look as Queen Anne's Lace, and the entire plant is extremely useful. The roots and leaves of the plant have a delicate taste that is reminiscent of parsnips, while the seeds have a stronger taste. Currently, the largest producer of caraway is Holland and the United States is the biggest importer of the herb.
Caraway is used in culinary circles in large part due to its refreshing and clean-cut flavor. Unlike other kinds of herbs and spices, caraway seed has a way of lightening the heavy flavors of other foods. For example, when used with foods like cabbage, sauerkraut, cole slaw, gravies, cheeses, pork, mutton, or even liver, you can detect a noticeable change. This change can help make the heavier foods more palatable. In addition, caraway seed is also used as a way to help give a little extra kick to some dishes that usually need it. Some examples of these dishes are things like potato salad, eggs, cream cheese, carrots, and spinach. Caraway seeds, as an ingredient, are most commonly found in such things as breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods.
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