Caraway seed is a small, crescent-shaped seed that ranges in color from light brown to dark brown. It has a distinctive aroma that is often described as earthy, slightly bitter, and spicy, with hints of anise and citrus.
In terms of taste, caraway has a warm, slightly spicy flavor with a hint of bitterness. When heated, the flavor of the seeds becomes more pronounced, and the bitterness is somewhat subdued. When used in cooking, caraway seeds are often added early in the cooking process so that they have time to release their flavor, but they can also be added later to provide a crunchy texture.
Caraway seeds are a popular ingredient in many cuisines, including European, Middle Eastern, and Indian. They are a staple in German, Austrian, and Eastern European cuisine, and are used in many traditional dishes such as sauerkraut, rye bread, and potato pancakes. In Middle Eastern cuisine, caraway seeds are often used in spice blends, such as za'atar, and in dishes like kibbeh and tabouleh.
When cooking with caraway, the seeds can be used whole or ground. It recommended to toast the seeds briefly in a dry pan to enhance their flavor before adding them to a dish. The seeds can be added to soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles, or sprinkled over roasted vegetables or meats. They can also be used to flavor cheese and bread products, or added to spice blends for use in marinades, rubs, and dressings.
In the Middle East, caraway seeds are often used to flavor sweets and desserts, such as Turkish delight and baklava.
Warm, slightly spicy flavor with a hint of bitterness
Distinctive, earthy aroma with hints of anise and citrus.
Small, crescent-shaped seeds with a light to dark brown color
Other warm spices such as cumin, coriander, and fennel
Toasting caraway seeds briefly in a dry pan will enhance their flavor
Cumin is often confused for caraway and the nomenclature for the herb in Slavic countries blurs the distinction between the two. Called "Roman caraway" or "spice caraway" cumin is actually spicier than its similar-looking relation. In addition to being hotter in taste, it is lighter in color, and bigger in size.
Cumin has eight ridges running lengthwise along its boat-shaped body with oil canals between them. It is yellow-brown in color and looks similar not just to caraway but also the other schizocarp herbaceous spices: fennel and anise seed.
In Scandinavian folklore, caraway seeds were believed to have magical properties and were used to ward off evil spirits. In the Middle Ages, caraway seeds were used as a love charm, and it was believed that giving someone a piece of bread baked with caraway seeds would ensure their love and loyalty.
Today, caraway is a popular ingredient in the production of liqueurs and spirits, such as Kümmel and Aquavit.