Garum (garus in Latin) was a spice used in the Ancient Greek, the Roman and Byzantine cuisine and was made of fish. Garum was added to savory and sweet foods to add to their flavor.
Origin and preparation
Garum was very widely spread during the roman era. It was a liquid broth of oily substance, an amber color, and a soft but also spicy pleasant taste. It originated in Greece and more specifically in Carthage. Initially, garum was made from sardines, the well-know anchovy. Later on, garum was made not only from anchovies, but also from other fish like tuna, eels, mackerels, that were salted and left whole and uncleaned with their intestines still attached, in the sun to dry. After about a week, they crushed them and strained their juice a lot of times until they were left with a liquid that was as clear and pure as oil.
Archaeological findings have shown that there were garum industries in the coasts of North Africa, Portugal and in other area of the Mediterranean. These industries were placed away from the residential areas, because they needed large spaces for the drying process, and then, the stage of drying and crushing produced a very intense and unpleasant smell, as opposed to the final product that smelled and tasted very nice.
Garum was prepared and sold in different varieties. Different types of garume were called «Salsamenta», «Liquamen», «Muria» or «Hallex». The most expensive was the garum made of salted tuna, that came from the Byzantine coasts, while the «Hallex» type was the most common and cheap, since it was made from any kind of fish and also from the remnants of other productions.
Use and Commerce
Garum was very widely spread during the Roman era. The Roman cook book issued during the 1st century «De re coquinaria» mentions garum as an ingredient in most recipes. It is found in the form of a wine sauce (oenogarum), vinegar (oxygarum), with pepper (garum piperatum), with oil (oleogarum) or even with water (hydrogarum). It also had medical applications and was used to cure dog bites, stomach and intestinal inflammations and other similar diseases.
Garum was an important commercial product that was exported all around the Roman Empire.
Source: Γάρος (καρύκευμα) – Βικιπαίδεια