Anise is a dainty, herbaceous plant that grows to 90cm (36in) tall. The tiny white flowers each around 3mm (¼in) in diameter, are produced in dense umbels. The leaves at the base of the plant are simple, long and shallowly lobed, while leaves higher on the stems are feathery pinnate, divided into numerous leafs. The fruit is an oblong dry schizocarp, 3 to 5 mm long. It is the seedpods that are referred to as 'aniseed' (anise-seed.)
Anise is most famous for the liquorice flavour of its leaves and seeds. Use the leaves fresh in salads and soups, and the seeds for flavouring cookies, pastries, and confections.
In Western cuisine, anise is mostly used in bread and cakes. Fruit products are aromatised with anise. In small amounts, anise seeds are sometimes contained in spice mixtures for sausages and stews.
Anise is also used to flavour many liqueurs. Anise oil, which is extracted from the seeds, is used as flavouring in medicines and liqueurs and for aroma in perfumes.
Sowing: Sow in spring
Seeds can be started early indoors, or can be sown directly where they are to grow. Grow in light, fertile, well drained soil. Plant 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart in a position that receives plenty of sunlight.
Starting anise indoors is recommended if one is looking to harvest seed as a long, warm growing season is necessary to ripen the seeds. However, transplant while the seedlings are still small, because the plants have a taproot they do not transplant well once established. The use of peat pellets or peat pots is recommended, otherwise use seed compost in small pots and transplant when the seedlings have their first true leaves.
Use a propagator if you have one or place in a warm place. Keep the soil moist for germination. Seeds germinate in 10 to 12 days at 20°C (68°F). Once the seedlings have germinated, grow on at 16°C (60°F) and plant outdoors in May.
Sowing Direct: Sow from early April.
Start plants from seeds as soon as the ground warms up in spring. Direct sow 12mm (1/8in) deep. Space 30cm (12in) apart in rows that are at least 45cm (18in) apart.
Once the seedlings appear, thin out if necessary and keep them clean from weeds.
Water the anise only a couple of times during the week. Anise actually does well in drier soil conditions and can be watered sparingly.
Remove the leaves as needed. As the plant grows you can remove as many leaves as you need for your recipes.
The plant flowers in July, and if the season prove warm, will ripen in autumn, when the plants are cut down and the seeds threshed out. You can take the seeds out of the flower heads once they have dried and store them in a cool, dry place to be replanted next season.
In the garden, Anise deters pests from crops such as brassicas by camouflaging their odour. It improves the vigour of any plants growing near it.
Use anise to spice sweet vegetables and fruit dishes, such as steamed pears, carrots or sweet potatoes. Additionally, a pinch of anise in your favorite baked goods, such as biscuits, cakes and cookies, adds a light and unique flavour.
Add a pinch of anise to add a subtle flavour to soups and stews, poultry, sausages, fish, meats and even stuffings to spice up your old favourites. Anise works particularly well in dishes that include eggs, cheese and spinach, so try adding a bit of anise to your next omelette, lasagne or pasta sauce.
Compliment the flavour of anise with a bit of cinnamon and/or bay leaf. As a general rule, add a bit of cinnamon in sweet dishes and a pinch of bay leaf for meats, stews and soups.
Anise oil is distilled from the anise seed and sometimes the leaves of this plant. It is well known internationally for its use in many popular liqueurs. the French spirits Absinthe, Anisette, and Pastis, Greek Ouzo and Eastern European Mastika, German Jägermeister, Italian Sambuca, the Peruvian Anís, and the Turkish Raki. It's believed to be one of the secret ingredients in the French liqueur Chartreuse. It is also used in some root beer such as Virgil's in the United States.
It is used in a wide variety of regional and ethnic confectioneries, including British Aniseed balls, Greek stuffed vine leaves (Dolma), Australian Humbugs, New Zealand Aniseed wheels, Italian pizzelle, German pfeffernusse and springerle, Netherland Muisjes, Norwegian knotts, and Peruvian Picarones. It is a key ingredient in Mexican "atole de anís" or champurrado, which is similar to hot chocolate, and taken as a digestive after meals in India.
In the East, anise is less known, fennel and star anise being more easily available and more popular. Anise may substitute fennel in Northern Indian recipes, but it is a less suited substitute for star anise in Chinese foods.
In Far Eastern cuisines (India, Iran, Indonesia), no distinction is made between anise and fennel (see below). Therefore, the same name is usually given to both of them. On the Philippines, star anise is a popular spice and referred to as "anise" for short.
Oil of Anise is distilled both from the fruits of Pimpinella anisum, Anise in Europe, and in China from the fruits of Illicium anisatum, Star Anise, a small tree indigenous to China.
It is colourless or very pale yellow, with taste and odour like the fruit. The oils obtainable from these two fruits are identical in composition and nearly the same in most of their characters, but that from Star Anise fruit congeals at a lower temperature. In recipes, they are virtually interchangeable.
Within the Apiaceae (parsley family), both fennel and cicely copy anise’s aroma well. To a lesser extent, chervil and dill also resemble anise, although their anise fragrance is not that pure as in the former mentioned plants. Though anise has the flavour of liquorice, it is not related to the European plant whose roots are the source of true liquorice.
In ancient Chinese as well as traditional Indian system of medicine, anise has assumed a very popular stature. Anise seeds are rich in volatile oil, flavonoids and other important nutrients. Anise acts as a disinfectant, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, expectorant and antiviral. Anise seeds stimulate lactation, and are considered to be a mild diuretic. Anise is also a mild antiparasitic and its leaves can be used to treat digestive problems, relieve toothache and menstrual cramps.
Science has proven that the essential oils in the anise seeds do have expectorant properties. A tea can relief cough and congestion. Externally, Anise tea can be wrapped in a warm cloth and used as a compress for eye pain. Try dropping a few seeds in a glass of warm milk before bed to prevent insomnia. Anise seeds can be chewed in the morning for an all-day natural mouth freshener.
- Builders of steam locomotives in Britain incorporated capsules of aniseed oil into white metal bearings, so that the distinctive smell would give warning in case of overheating.
- Anise can be made into a liquid scent and is used for both hunting and fishing. Originally used for attracting bear, bear hunters discovered that with an increased deer population, anise oil also successfully attracted deer; it also doubles as a scent cover. It is put on fishing lures to attract fish; it is also used as the scent on the artificial rabbit in greyhound races.
- Anise oil, if smeared on traps is said to prove tantalizing bait for mice
- It is poisonous to pigeons.
In this country Anise has been in use since the fourteenth century, and has been cultivated in English gardens from the middle of the sixteenth century. Anise was so popular in medieval England as a spice, medicine, and perfume that in 1305 King Edward I placed a special tax on it to raise money to repair London Bridge.
Gerard said: 'Aniseed helpeth the yeoxing or hicket (hiccough) and should be given to young children to eat,
which are like to have the falling sickness or to/such as have it by patrimony or succession.' (epilepsy).
In the East Anise was formerly used with other spices in part payment of taxes. 'Ye pay tithe of Mint, Anise and Cummin,' we read in the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew, but some authorities’ state that Anise is an incorrect rendering and should have been translated 'Dill.'
In Virgil's time, Anise was used as a spice. Mustacae, a spiced cake of the Romans introduced at the end of a rich meal, to prevent indigestion, consisted of meal, with Anise, Cummin and other aromatics. Such a cake was sometimes brought in at the end of a marriage feast, and is, perhaps, the origin of our spiced wedding cake.
Anise is one of the oldest known herbs, a native of Egypt, Greece, Crete and Asia Minor it was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. It was well known to the Greeks, being mentioned by Dioscorides and Pliny and was cultivated in Tuscany in Roman times. In the Middle Age its cultivation spread to Central Europe. It was one of the first European herbs to have been planted in America.
It is now grown on a commercial scale in warmer areas. Southern Russia, Bulgaria, Germany, Malta, Spain, Italy, North Africa and Greece producing large quantities. It has also been introduced into India and South America.
The early Arabic name was "Anysum" from which was derived the Greek "Anison" or "Anneson" and the Latin "anisum." Called anise in virtually all European languages, the form anis is also valid in a large number of languages.
The Medieval name "Pimpinella" is derived from the Latin name "dipinella," meaning twice-pinnate or bi-pinnate in allusion to the form of the leaves.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 400 Seeds Common Name Anís, Aniseed Other Common Names Sweet Cumin Family Apiaceae Genus Pimpinella Species anisum Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Flowers Small white blooms. Natural Flower Time Summer Fruit Seeds ripen in autumn. Height 90cm (36in). Spread 30 to 38cm (12 to 15in). Position Full sun preferred Soil Grow in light, fertile, well drained soil. Time to Sow Spring. Germination 10 to 12 days at 20°C (68°F). Harvest Remove the leaves as needed. Time to Harvest Harvest seeds in autumn.