This spice may well be the oldest in the world — and it can be found growing in Austria. With its bitter, earthy and warm flavor, caraway is an important ingredient in European cuisine.
Caraway as a Spice
The bitter, aromatic, subtly warming flavor of caraway is found in lots of recipes in Austrian and southern German cuisine — but this classic spice is rarely used outside of Europe or even in the Mediterranean region. The distinctive spice of Viennese cooking, caraway has a long history — it is known to have been used in Ancient Greece and Rome, and some believe that it was used as far back as the Neolithic Age in Central Europe. For a long time, caraway was also ground into an oil that was used to keep pests away from food supplies on ships.
Caraway is a great addition to hearty and rich meals as its slight bitterness helps to balance out the flavors. Its flavor compliments many other herbs and spices, particularly garlic, onion, paprika and marjoram. Caraway can be ground or chopped before it is added to dishes — or use whole seeds for an intense hit of flavor when bitten. It’s hard to imagine traditional Austrian cuisine without the flavor of caraway. The spice is found in roast pork, Krautfleckerl pasta, pretzel sticks, sauerkraut, cheese and a whole host of cakes.
Chopping whole caraway seeds with garlic prevents the seeds from bouncing off the chopping board. You need both in most Viennese dishes anyway, so this method saves both time and effort.
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When we talk about caraway as a spice, this is referring to the fruit of the biennial caraway plant. The plant grows to up to one meter high and produces small white flowers. Caraway has been grown and used as a spice in Europe for at least 5000 years, meaning that it is quite possibly the oldest spice in the world. Caraway grown in Austria is of a particularly high quality as it has an intense flavor and the ideal essential oil content. Kotányi has also played a hand in the fact that Austrian caraway cultivation has enjoyed something of a renaissance since the 1980s.
- Scientific Name
- Carum carvi
- Mint family (Lamiaceae)
- Other Names
- Meridian fennel, Persian cumin
- Probably Africa and India