(Pimpinella anisum – Umbelliferae / Apiaceae)
Anise, also referenced as Aniseed (Anise seed) and anís, is a herbaceous plant with feathery leaves and white flowers which are produced in dense umbels (individual flower stalks called pedicels that are close to equal in length which arise from about the same point on the stem concluding in a cluster at the top of the peduncle…think “umbrella”).
The leaves and seeds (fruit) have a pungent licorice flavor and scent, due to the anethole, and are sometimes chewed to freshen breath. Chewing the seeds can also be helpful for those who are trying to quit smoking. Anise is also claimed to aid digestion. It is said that in Holland, anise seeds are steeped in milk to induce sleep.
“P. anisum was first cultivated as a spice by the ancient Egyptians and later by the Greeks, Romans, and Arabs. Although widely grown commercially, it (Anise) has declined in recent years through competition with cheaper anise flavorings, such as Illicium verum [Star Anise] and synthetic anethole.” –Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses by Deni Bown
According to New Age Herbalist, “Aniseed tea eases indigestion, flatulence and colic. Its relaxing and expectorant action makes it useful to treat tight coughs.”
Anise, an annual sun-loving plant, grows to a height of 24″ to 30″, with a 6″ spread. Anise is not considered cold hardy and requires at least 120 days of frost-free weather. Direct seed after last expected frost in sandy soil that is well-worked and well-drained, planting seeds 1/4″ deep in rows 12″ apart. (Anise does not transplant well.) Location should be protected from prevailing winds. Thin plants to 8″ apart when seedlings reach 2″ high. Soil’s pH should be between 6.0 to 7.5.
Fertilizing is usually not necessary. Watering should be done regularly when temperatures are hot and dry.
Anise is a companion plant to Coriander, where its functions in the garden include repelling aphids and cabbage worms. The flowers of anise, which show up in late summer, are attractive to parasitic wasps. (Anise reportedly attracts mice and rats as well.)
The leaves of anise can be harvested anytime. Harvest the aromatic seeds when gray-brown by clipping the umbelliferous heads of the flowers and placing them into paper bags or flat on sheets of paper in direct sunlight. When seeds are dry, store them in an airtight container. Seeds intended for planting should be used within a year.
The seeds are used as a flavor in candy, confections, dried figs, cakes, breads, curries, cheese spreads, applesauce, soups, herb tea blends (and by itself), and livestock feed. Seeds and oil of anise are used commercially in flavoring liqueurs. Anise oil can also be found in pharmaceutical products, and in tobacco products, cosmetics, toiletries, and perfumery. Fresh anise leaves are used in herb salads and in other vegetable salads and sauces (especially apple) and teas.
It has been said that aniseed tea, when cooled and applied to the face, helps to lighten the skin.
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