Eva Nemeth

University of Horticulture and Food Industry, H-1114 Budapest, Villanyi str. 29—43, Hungary

Although the genus Carum counts 25 species, through the Northern hemisphere (Danert et al. 1975), only Carum carvi L. has an economical importance, being used and cultivated in several regions (Figure 1). This species has been the topic of a wide row of investigations, and—in the course of production—of accumulated practical knowledge. The majority of these valuable data is collected in this book, part of them published elsewhere, part of them nowhere.

Carum carvi L., caraway is believed to have been cultivated and consumed in Europe longer, than any other spice species. Seeds, found in ancient debris in Switzerland should be a proof for it (Rosengarten 1969). Cultivation is known since the Middle Ages, from Sicily to northern Scandinavia. It is mentioned even in a XIV. century English cookery book and also in classical literature, in Shakespeare's Henry IV. (Rosengarten 1969).

Caraway is widely used as a condiment, as a drug, and recently, also for some other industrial purposes. Separate chapters of this book deal with each utilisation area. Traditionally it is grown mainly in the Netherlands,—which has an outstanding reputation—Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Rumania. Heeger (1956) mentions also some further countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Spain and Austria, however their production seems not to be a determining factor today on the world market. In the contrary, the production is growing in some other regions, such as Canada, United States, Finland, Syria, Morocco (Parry 1969). It is likely, that in these last two countries the annual variety is cultivated, although this fact is not mentioned in the cited manuals (Figure 2). In general, information on the presence of annual and biennial ecotypes within the species are few, and the existing ones rather new, originating from the last 20-25 years. Recently, production of the annual type is spreading in the Middle and West European countries, because of the simpler agriculture and higher yields. Origin of the annual material should be Egypt, which is also a main producer of it. However, production was decreasing in the period of 1975-91 (Abu-Nahoul and Ismail 1995).

In the countries of the near East caraway is often substituted by cumin (Cuminum ciminum L.) this small, annual species, (Figure 3) which is indigenous in Egypt, widely grown in the Mediterranean, in Asia and also in America. The fruits and occasionally the whole herb are used as a spice and aperitif in food industry, but also as a carminativum and stomachicum in phytotherapy (Pillai and Nambiar 1982). Although usage and aroma is similar to those of caraway, main component of the essential oil is cuminaldehyde (Parry 1969).

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