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Caraway (Carum carvi L.)


pharmaceuticalFructus Carvi
Arabicكراويا, كراويه, كرويا, كراوية
كَرَوْيَا, كَرَوْيَاء
Karaway, Karawiaa, Karawiya
AzeriAdi cirə
Ади ҹирә
Chaman, Chaman
CatalanComí de prat
葛縷子 [goht léuih jí]
Goht leuih ji
葛縷子 [gé lǚ zǐ]
Ge lü zi
Copticⲕⲁⲣⲱ, ⲫⲓⲣⲫⲓⲟⲛ
Karo, Phirphion
CzechKmín, Kmín luční
Dhivehiފަރިހި ދަމުއި
Farihi dhamui
DutchKarwij, Wilde komijn, Kummel
EnglishCaraway, Wild cumin, Carvies, Carroway
EstonianHarilik köömen
Farsiمیوه زیره
Miweh Zireh
FinnishKumina, Saksankumina
FrenchCumin des prés, Carvi, Grains de carvi
GaelicCarbhaidh, Carvie, Lus dearg
GalicianAlcaravea, Alcaravía
Georgianტმინი, კვლიავი
T’mini, Tmini, K’vliavi, Kvliavi
GreekΚάρο, Καρβί
Karo, Karvi
Greek (Old)Κάρον
Hebrewכרויה, קימל
כְּרַוְיָה, קִימֶל
Kravyah, Kimel, Kimmel, Qimel
Hindiविलायती जीरा, शाजीरा
Shia jeera (?), Gunyan (?), Vilayati jira, Sajeera, Sajira
HungarianKöménymag, Kömény, Konyhakömény, Réti kömény
ItalianCumino tedesco, Carvi, Caro
ヒメウイキョウ, キャラウェイ, キャラウェー
Himeuikyō, Himeuikyo, Kyarawei
Kaereowei, Kaerowei
LatinCareum, Carvum
LatvianPļavas ķimene, Ķimenes
LithuanianPaprastasis kmynas, Kmynas
MacedonianКим, Кимел
Kim, Kimel
Sajirakam, Sajiragam
MongolianГоньд, Эгэл гоньд
Gon’d, Egel gon’d
PolishKminek, Kminek zwyczajny
RomanianChimion, Chimen†
SerbianКим, Диљи кумин
Kim, Divlji kumin
SlovakRasca lúčna, Rasca, Kmin
SlovenianKumina, Navadna kumina
SpanishAlcaravea, Carvi
Thaiหอมป้อม, เทียนตากบ
Hom pom, Thian takop
Go-snyod, Gonyod (writing uncertain)
TurkishFrenk kimyonu, Karaman kimyonu
UkrainianКмин, Кмин звичайний, Дикий аніс
Kmyn, Kmyn zwychajnyj, Dikyj anis
VietnameseCa rum
Ca rum

Carum carvi: Caraway (plants with ripening fruits)
Caraway plants with ripening fruits
Carum carvi: Caraway fruits
Dried caraway fruits (often termed caraway seeds)
Used plant part

Fruits, usually but in­correctly called cara­way seeds

Plant family

Apiaceae (parsley family).

Sensory quality

Strongly aromatic and warm. For an overview about the flavours of several spices from the parsley family, see cicely.

Of some common herbs, caraway-scented varieties or cultivars are available in specialized plant nurseries; examples include mint and thyme. None of these plants, however, reaches caraway in its culinary importance.

Carum carvi: Caraway flants with flowers
Flowering caraway plants
Carum carvi: Caraway inflorescence
Caraway umbel

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, α- and β-pinene, sabinene and perillyl alcohol are of much minor importance.


Central Europe to Asia; it is not clear, however, whether caraway is truly indigenous to Europe. Today, it is chiefly cultivated in Finland, the Netherlands, Eastern Europe and Germany, furthermore North Africa, particularly Egypt.


The German term for caraway, Kümmel, derives from Latin cuminum for cumin and was misapplied to the plant popular in Germany. Latin cuminum leads, via Greek kyminon [κύμινον], further back to Semitic forms, e. g., Old Hebrew kammon [כמן].

Some names for caraway in tongues of Europe, especially Northern Europe (where caraway is particularly popular), also relate to Latin cuminum, e. g., Danish kommen, Latvian ķimenes, Estonian köömen, Polish kminek and Bulgarian kim [ким]. Some of these names were transmitted via the German name.

Similarly to Latin cuminum, Greek karon [κάρον] means cumin, not caraway. Its origin is not clear; it derives maybe from the name of a region in Asia Minor (Caria), but may well be a variant of Greek kyminon cumin or belong to the kin of coriander. The word was transferred to Latin as carum with the changed meaning caraway and thus gave rise to number of modern names of caraway, e. g., French carvi, Italian caro, Greek karvi [καρβί] and Norwegian karve.

The English term caraway also belongs to that series: It was probably mediated by Arabic (modern form al-karawya [الكراويا]) from Latin carum. Cf. the Iberic names Portuguese alcaravia and Spanish alcaravea and see also capers on the derivation of the prefix al-, which relates to the Arabic article.

Carum carvi: Caraway plant
Caraway plant in flower
Carum carvi: Ripening caraway fruits
Ripening caraway fruits

Caraway is a spice mostly loved in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe; languages of other regions often lack a specific name for caraway, but use the name of cumin instead, often with a geo­graphic epithet referring to Germany: Turkish frenk kimyonu Frankish cumin, Italian cumino tedesco (Finnish saksan­kumina) German cumin or Hindi vilayati jeera [विलायती जीरा] foreign cumin. Hebrew has taken another course by backloaning the German Kümmel via Yiddish as kimmel [קימל], while the original Semitic word for cumin is preserved as kamoon [כמון].

The French name of caraway is carvi, but is little used; frequently, caraway is termed cumin de prés meadow cumin, especially in the North, where is grows wild abundantly. Some French texts even speak of cumin, which in most cases equals English cumin, when caraway is meant — here the reader is challenged to supply the correct context.

Care is also required concerning the Sanskrit name karavi [कारवी], reported to mean caraway by some sources (and suspiciously similar to some European names of caraway); yet other sources translate that word with cumin, dill, fennel, asafetida or even nigella!

The card game Three Card Monte (also known as Find the Lady) is in German named Kümmelblättchen (literally caraway leaflet, where leaf is taken to mean card); yet this has nothing to do with caraway. Instead, the name derives from the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet, (gimel, ג), in reference to the three cards used for that game (which is more often a fraud to scam those not familiar with it). Hebrew gimel is related to gamma and perhaps also camel.

Selected Links

Indian Spices: Caraway ( Ilkas und Ullis Kochecke: Kümmel ( via A Pinch of Caraway Seeds ( Pflanzen des Capitulare de Villis: Kümmel ( Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association: Caraway Die ultimative Kümmel-Seite Transport Information Service: Caraway Rezept: Wiener Kartoffelgulasch ( Rezept: Österreischisches Rindsgulasch (

Carum carvi: Caraway plant with fruits and flowers
Caraway plant with fruits and flowers
Caraway is often recognized 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 its extremely effective antiflatulent powers (see also lovage); there is still some domestic production of caraway in Germany, although most now stems from Egyptian imports.

Caraway is the spice that gives Southern German and Austrian foods, be it meat, vegetable or rye bread, their characteristic flavour. It is also popular in Scandinavia and particularly in the Baltic states, but is hardly known in Southern Europe. True caraway aficionados use the whole fruits, but even the powder is strongly aromatic. Caraway’s aroma does not harmonize with most other spices, but its combination with garlic is effective and popular in Austria and Southern Germany for meat (e. g., roast pork Schweinsbraten) and vegetables. German Sauerkraut (sour cabbage made by lactic fermentation) is always flavoured with caraway (and juniper). Unfermented boiled cabbage without caraway lacks character. Some cheese varieties from Central Europe contain caraway grains; see also blue fenugreek.

Carum carvi: Flowering Carraway plant
Flowering caraway plant
Carum carvi: Caraway flower
Caraway flower

Caraway is a contro­versial spice; to many, it appears dominant and dis­agreeable, 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.

Caraway is of some importance in the cuisines of North Africa, mostly in Tunisia. Several recipes of Tunisian harissa [هريسة], a fiery paste made of dried chiles, call for caraway, and the same is true on a similar preparation found in Yemen, zhoug (see coriander).

Outside the indicated areas, caraway is rather uncommon. If you ever find references to caraway in books about Middle East, Indian or Far East cooking, then the most probable explanation is a translation mistake and you should probably read cumin. The same holds for the appearance of caraway in several Bible translations (see pomegranate for details). At last, there are some Indian cookbooks employing caraway for North Indian foods, but I suspect that black cumin is meant instead. While caraway does appear in Indian foods, it is only of marginal importance.

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