Written by Debra Wyatt (last updated July 9, 2021)
Anise (Pimpinella anisumv) is considered to be both a vegetable and an herb. It comes from the same family as fennel, dill cumin, and caraway. The taste has a rather strong resemblance to licorice.
Even though anise is powerful, it does have a pleasant flavor and aroma about it. Anise can be found in perfumes, perfumed soaps, and sachets. The use of anise has medicinal uses as well—everything from coating bitter pills, to cough mixtures, to sweetening someone's breath. When used as a hot drink it can even help with menstrual pain. Those who are fortunate enough to have this plant in their gardens are able to enjoy the leaves in salads and in refreshing drinks. However, it is the fruit of this plant that is used in all areas of medicine, the kitchen, and with perfumes.
The anise is considered to be a tall plant that will grow from one-and-a-half feet to four feet tall. The leaflets are green with a feathery appearance, with flowers that are white and the fruit of this plant that looks like seeds that are ribbed. The seeds are of a grey-green or a greenish brown when it is ripe. The plant grows best in well-drained, fertile soil that has plenty of light. The plant doesn't transplant very well so while the seedlings are small is the best time to transplant or plant them in their final location.
The United States receives most of their aniseed from Spain and Mexico. In the Spanish-speaking areas of the world anise is used in stews, made into bouillon for fish, and also used in sweets. In Scandinavia this popular herb is used to help flavor soups and applesauce and also used to make an interesting beet salad. When cooking or baking with anise one should be careful not to use too much; it has a very delicate flavor. Anise is more of an authoritative spice so it should be used lightly, as adding too much can be overwhelming.
While anise is sweet and the licorice type flavor helps to add variety to many different types of foods such as poultry, French dressing and fruit compotes are complimented with the use of the delicate licorice accent. In sweet things like breads, cookies, cakes, candies, and puddings the flavor is enhanced by anise. This plant is used in a wide variety of ethnic food and in many regions.
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