Arabic: Karawya, Karawiya Carum carvi; Umbelliferae/Apiaceae (Parsley Family)
Some botanists say that caraway is the world’s oldest known herb. It is mentioned in the Bible and other ancient texts, and has been found in European archeological excavations dating back 8000 years. In the spice markets of Arabia, caraway can be found alongside her sister spices of anise (yansoon), fennel (shamr) and cumin (kamun). You need only ask for karawiya (from which we get the English word caraway) to take some home. Caraway is grown throughout Europe, the Mediterranean area, North Africa, Asia and North America.
Did you know?
- Caraway seed is the spice which gives rye bread its characteristic flavor.
- Caraway is important in Tunisian cuisine and is sometimes an ingredient of harissa, a fiery North African condiment made from dried hot peppers.
- Caraway leaves may be used as a herb in salads and as a garnish, while its seeds may be used as a spice in breads, cheese spreads, pastas and vegetable and fruit dishes.
- Dioscorides, a Greek physician in the first century, recommended oil of caraway be rubbed into skin to improve a pale girl’s complexion.
- Caraway is a biennial. It grows as a small green plant the first year and then up to 60 centimeters (2') tall the second year, producing small white and apple-green flowers and fruit. The fruit, commonly called seeds, can be separated from the plant when ripe and then dried in the sun.
- Most experts believe the word caraway comes originally from the Greek word karon, which means cumin! Caraway and cumin seeds are very similar in appearance. Arabic borrowed the word as karawiya, which medieval Latin transformed into carui or carvi (as in Carum carvi).