Language and mythology
Anise is native to the Middle East. Although its name does not have a particular meaning, the plant itself is associated with health and is thought to aid digestion. It has been cultivated for much of recorded history. Hippocrates recommended it for coughs, and the Roman scholar Pliny used it as a breath freshener. Todays spicy wedding cake may have originated from a cake containing anise that was eaten by the Romans after large feasts.
This herb has a woody root that produces a round, grooved, branched stem. The coarse-toothed lower leaves are round to cordate with long petioles. The upper leaves are feathery, delicate, and pinnately divided. Leaflets may be toothed or toothless. The small flowers are white to yellowish white with petals that are held in compound umbels. The brown fruit is ovate, downy, flattened, and 1/8 inch long.
Plant type and hardiness: Annual; hardiness zones are not applicable to annuals. Height and width Height 18 to 24 inches; width about 12 inches. Light and soil Full sun; light, dry, well-drained soil with a pH of 6. Pests and diseases None noted.
Cultivation: This spindly plant needs protection from winds and plenty of sunshine to promote healthy growth. Its fragile, tender seedlings do not transplant well. Add fertilizer only if the soil is extremely poor, and add lime if the pH is very acidic. Water regularly in hot, dry weather, preferably in late afternoon or evening to avoid scorching the plant.
Companion planting: Anise seed will germinate more rapidly if sown near coriander. It has been shown that the presence of coriander improves the actual seed formation of the anise plant.
Propagation method: Seeds sown directly into the ground. Bloom time and color July to August; white to yellowish white.
Harvesting: After the flower umbels have become heavy with ripe brown seeds, cut the heads off before they drop. Place them in a single layer on a paper towel or plate in a dry place. If possible, expose to direct sunlight to allow the seeds to completely dry out. When the seeds are crisp and dry, rub between palms to separate the seed from the hull, sieve to remove seeds from the husks, and store in airtight containers.
Herbal uses Aromatic, culinary, and medicinal: Anise may be used for its aromatic qualities in oil and potpourris. Crushed seeds are added to sachets. The licorice flavor complements eggs, fruit, cheese, pastries, cakes, and cookies. The leaves are used in salads or as a garnish and dried for teas. The seed is used whole or ground. Anise is reported to have some medicinal qualities.
Garden notes: Seeds germinate readily in flats, but anise transplants poorly.
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