Aromatic Festive Looking Mediterranean Herb

Anise herb imageDid you know that what catnip is to cats, anise is to dogs? For humans, Anise seed has a sweet, licorice flavor and is used to intensify sweetness in cakes, pastries, and cookies.

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) also known as anís and aniseed is native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, where it is grown as a cash crop. You can also find Anise growing wild in the fields. It is related to caraway, parsley and dill. Although Anise name does not have a particular meaning, this plant is associated with health and is said to aid digestion. Anise is one of the oldest known herbs, having been mentioned in ancient Egyptian records. It has been cultivated for much of recorded history. Hippocrates recommended anise for coughs, and the Roman scholar Pliny used it as a breath freshener.

Anise herb grows about 18 inches tall and is branchy, erect, slender and cylindrical. Its stem leaves are more and more finely cut toward the upper part of the stem, near the top of which they resemble fennel leaves in their finely divided segments. The Anise plant has lacy leaves; the upper leaves are feathery, delicate, and pinnately divided. Leaflets may be toothed or toothless. When in bloom, Anise provides a profusion of flowers. The small flowers are white to yellowish white with petals that are held in compound umbels that give way to seeds containing tasty anise oil. The roots of anise are white, spindle-shaped and rather fibrous. The brown fruit (aniseed) is ovate, downy, flattened, and 1/8 inch long.

Most Anise is produced in Spain but additional sources include Turkey and Egypt. Spanish Anise is considered premium due to its better flavor, bolder appearance and higher volatile oil content.

Anise is an ideal herb to grow in a pot. This member of the parsley family should be sown where it is intended to grow as its long taproot does not take well to transplanting. Anise seeds will germinate more rapidly if sown near coriander.


Anis herb picture
  • Type                               Annual.
  • Height                            18 to 24 inches.
  • Maintenance                   Easy.
  • Pot Size                          10" diameter, 10" depth pots, or larger.
  • Seed Germination           7 to 14 days.
  • Seed Spacing                  Sow at 1/4 inch deep and cover lightly with soil.
  • Plant Spacing                  Place anise plants at least 6 inches apart.
  • Soil Requirements           The soil should be deep, light, fairly rich and slightly acid.
  • Growing Mix                     Mix 1 part garden soil, 1 part coarse sand or perlite, 1 part moist peat or humus (leaf mold) and a light dusting of lime.
  • Fertilize                            Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.
  • Sun & Lighting                 Full sun.
  • Water Requirements        Dry to Moist. Water the anise only a couple of times during the week; do not overwater.

Anise today is widely used for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal qualities. Anise seeds are used as a flavoring in breads and cakes, sweets and creams, in a marinade for fish and to flavour liquers and cordials. Leaves and flowers can also be used as a garnish. Use the leaves throughout the growing season to add to green salads.

Anise seeds imageAnise may be used for its aromatic qualities in oil and potpourris. Crushed seeds are added to sachets. The leaves and seeds taste good with shellfish. The liquorice flavor complements eggs, fruit, cheese, pastries, cakes, and cookies. The leaves are dried for herbal teas. The seed is used whole or ground.

Try adding some anise seeds to cream cheese or cottage cheese. You can make your own anise seed oil that can be used much like an extract in baked goods. Simply combine about a tablespoon of anise seeds in a glass bottle with about a half of a cup of olive oil, and let it rest for a week or so before using.

Anise has been used for many years to disguise the unpleasant taste of medicine. A refreshing herbal tea can be made from the dried leaves and this is supposed to be an aid to digestion as chewing the seeds can cure hiccoughs. For treating indigestion pour one cup of boiling water onto ½ teaspoon of seeds and leave to stand for five minutes before drinking.

Cosmetically a good face pack can be made from ground anise seeds. This will fade freckles.
Anise herb is thought to ward off evil and sleeping on a pillow containing anis seeds will prevent nightmares. A sprig of anise hung on the bedpost will reputedly revive departed youth.

What is Aniseed?
Aniseed, sometimes spelled as anise, anis or anise seed, is considered a spice with a sweet licorice-like taste. It is known for its flavor, which resembles liquorice, fennel and tarragon. Both seed and leaves from the plant pimpinella anisum carry the licorice taste.

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