All about Hungary: Root parsley & caraway

Root parsley & caraway

Posted on Apr 12, 2010| | | 2 comments:
Two herbs what Hungarians use regularly in their kitchen and what make confusion.

Root parsley

Until today i translated the hamburg root parsley as white carrot into English or French because the two roots are very similar. Also Hungarians get confused and they call the root parsley like fehér répa (white carrot) or spàrga (asparagus) but the correct name must be petrezselyemgyökér (parsley root). It was a big mistake by me as their tastes are very different. The root parsley has stronger taste and that what Hungarians use, especially for their soups.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a bright green biennial herb, often used as spice. It is common in Middle Eastern, European, and American cooking. Parsley is used for its leaf in much the same way as coriander (which is also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro), although parsley has a milder flavor.

This type of parsley (hamburg root parsley) is grown as a root vegetable (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum). It produces much thicker roots than types cultivated for their leaves. Although little known in Britain and the United States, root parsley is very common in Central and Eastern European cuisine, used in soups and stews. Parsley grows best between 22 and 30 degrees Celsius (72 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit).
Though it looks similar to parsnip it tastes quite different. Parsnips are among the closest relatives of parsley in the umbellifer family of herbs. The similarity of the names is a coincidence, parsnip meaning "forked turnip"; it is not related to real turnips.

hamburg root parsley

white carrot

Vegetable soup (zöldségleves) in what Hungarians use the root parsley


When i moved from Hungary to France, i wanted to cook a Hungarian dish which requires caraway. My own mother tongue made me confused as the caraway in Hungarian is kömény (cumin) and the cumin is ròmai kömény, fehér kömény or borsoskömény (roman cumin, white cumin, pepper cumin). So i bought cumin and i was surprised why the taste does not fit to what i wanted to cook. Caraway has stronger taste than the cumin.

Caraway (Carum carvi) also known as Meridian Fennel, or Persian Cumin, is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae, native to western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa.
The plant is similar in appearance to a carrot plant, with finely divided, feathery leaves with thread-like divisions, growing on 20–30 cm stems. The main flower stem is 40–60 cm tall, with small white or pink flowers in umbels. Caraway fruits (erroneously called seeds) are crescent-shaped achenes, around 2 mm long, with five pale ridges.
The plant prefers warm, sunny locations and well-drained soil.

Cumin is hotter to the taste (opinion by Wikipedia, i definitely do not agree !), lighter in color, and larger than caraway (Carum carvi), another umbelliferous spice with which it is sometimes confused. Many European languages do not distinguish clearly between the two. For example, in Czech caraway is called 'kmín' while cumin is called 'římský kmín' or "Roman caraway". The distinction is practically the same in Hungarian ("kömény" for caraway and "római kömény" [Roman caraway] for cumin). In Polish the difference is even less significant- caraway is 'kminek' and cumin is 'kmin rzymski', which is even more confusing as 'kminek' is a diminutive of 'kmin' (notice the -ek suffix, as in 'kot' - a cat and 'kotek' - a small cat). In Swedish, caraway is called "kummin" while cumin is "spiskummin", from the Swedish word "spisa", to eat, while in German "Kümmel" stands for caraway and "Kreuzkümmel" denotes cumin. In Finnish, caraway is called "kumina", while cumin is "roomankumina"(Roman caraway" or "juustokumina"(cheese caraway). Some older cookbooks erroneously name ground coriander as the same spice as ground cumin.
The distantly related Bunium persicum and the unrelated Nigella sativa are both sometimes called black cumin (q.v.).
Not related to curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric.



caraway-seed soup (click here to see the article about caraway-seed soup !) 

Sources :


  1. I think,i'm going to cook a soup...right now :o)
    Üdv, Karcsi

  2. Thank you so very much for this post!!! I too learned the hard way that there is a huge difference between what we call "cumin" in Hungary and the "cumin" used in the rest of the world. Very useful article with good photos! Loved it :)

    Have a nice day,



Copyright © All about Hungary

Website creation & Web-Design : IL Design

Based on Urang-Kurai's DMC Template