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Caraway, also known as meridian fennel, and Persian cumin, (Carum carvi) is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae, native to western Asia, Europe, and North Africa.
Caraway has been called by many names in different regions, with names deriving from the Latin cuminum (cumin), the Greek karon (again, cumin), which was adapted into Latin as carum (now meaning caraway), and the Sanskrit karavi, sometimes translated as "caraway", but other times understood to mean "fennel".
Used in bread buns with caraway fruits and salt the fruits, usually used whole, have a pungent, anise-like flavor and aroma that comes from essential oils, mostly carvone, limonene, and anethole. Caraway is used as a spice in breads, especially rye bread.
Caraway is also used in desserts, liquors, casseroles, and other foods. It is also found in European cuisine. For example, it is used in caraway seed cake, and it is frequently added to sauerkraut. The roots of the plant may be cooked as a vegetable like parsnips or carrots. Additionally, the leaves are sometimes consumed as herbs, either raw, dried, or cooked, similar to parsley.
In Serbia, caraway is commonly sprinkled over home-made salty scones (pogačice s kimom). It is also used to add flavor to cheeses such as bondost, pultost, havarti and Tilsit cheese. Scandinavian Akvavit, including Icelandic Brennivin, and several liqueurs are made with caraway.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, caraway pudding, called Meghli, is a popular dessert during Ramadan. It is typically made and served in the Levant area in winter and on the occasion of having a new baby. Caraway is also added to flavor harissa, a Tunisian chili pepper paste. In Aleppian, Syrian cuisine it is used to make the sweet scones named keleacha.
Caraway fruit oil is also used as a fragrance component in soaps, lotions, and perfumes. Caraway is also used as a breath freshener, and it has a long tradition of use in folk medicine.
In the United States the most common use of caraway is whole as an addition to rye bread. Often called seeded rye or Jewish rye bread. Caraway fruits are frequently used in Irish soda bread, along with raisins and currants.