Foods in the Carrot Family – Including Parsley, Celery, and Caraway

by Penny Hammond on December 8, 2009

in Foods,Plant Foods

These plants in the carrot family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) are used for food (most common usage shown with *):
Ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi) – seeds*
Angelica (Angelica archangelica) – stems* (candied), seeds
Anise (Pimpinella anisum) – seeds*
Asafetida (Ferula assafoetida) – dried latex gum*
Caraway (Carum carvi) – seeds*
Carrot (Daucus carota) – root* and leaves
Celeriac / Celery root (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum) – root*, stalks and leaves
Celery (Apium graveolens)- stalks* and leaves
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) – leaves*
Chinese celery / leaf celery (Apium graveolens var secalinum) – stems*, leaves*
Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) – leaves*
Coriander / Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) – leaves*, seeds*, stems
Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) – leaves*
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) – seeds*
Dill (Anethum graveolens) – leaves*, seeds*
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)- bulb*, leaves, flowers
Lovage (Levisticum officinale) – leaves*
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – leaves*, stems
Parsley root (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum) – root*, leaves
Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) -root*

Foods in the carrot family are often cooked together, as they have complementary flavors. Some people don’t like the strong flavors, but in most cases people don’t have issues with foods in this family.

Roots eaten include carrot, parsnip, and celery root/celeriac. Stems that are used include celery, angelica, and the swollen bulb-like stem base of fennel/anise. Many of the foods in this family are used as herbs for the flavor of their leaves, including dill, chervil, cilantro/coriander, lovage, cicely, and parsley. The seeds of many plants in this family are also used – look closely at the seeds of coriander, cumin, caraway, dill, fennel, and anise, and you’ll see similar ridges down the length of the seed. The oil from anise seeds is used to flavor liqueurs. Gum from the stem and root of asafetida is used in some cuisines – it has a pungent, sulfur-like smell that brings out flavors in the same way that onions do. Some plants are used for multiple parts – cilantro/coriander leaves, stems, and roots are all used in Thai cooking, and the leaves and roots of parsley root (which is slightly different than parsley) are both used.

Food plants in this family originated in southern Europe and Central Asia, and many of them have been eaten for thousands of years. Carrots used to be tough, woody, and purple – even 100 years ago, when sweet orange carrots had been developed, recipes called for them to be cooked for an hour after the woody center had been removed.

Many of these plants are considered by some people and cultures to have mild pharmacological properties, especially for digestive issues and reducing gas. In many parts of South Asia, fennel seeds are chewed after meals to help with digestion.

Most people do not have specific problems with foods in this family. Some are put off by the strong smells of some of the foods, particularly the seeds. There are many people who just don’t like eating vegetables – they might eat carrots if they’re dressed up enough, but would avoid most other foods in the family. Most diets don’t even bother to mention foods in this family, although low-carb diets may suggest avoiding the roots in this family in early stages of the diet, and celery is a popular diet food because it’s so low in calories. It’s relatively rare for people to have extreme reactions to these foods, such as allergies or food intolerances.

Resources:
Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide – Lots of historical and current information on food plant usage, and photos of the plants and the parts used for food.
Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes – Histories and recipes for plants in different families.

What do you think of foods in this family?

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