Anise is an annual herb of the natural order Umbellifer. It is a native of southwestern Asia, northern Africa and southeastern Europe. It has been introduced by man throughout the Mediterranean region, into Germany and to some extent into other temperate regions of both hemispheres.
History of Anise
Anise seems to have enjoyed general popularity for many centuries. It is even mentioned in the Christian scriptures as a cultivated crop. In the ninth century, Charlemagne commanded that it be grown upon the imperial farms. In the 13th, Albertus Magnus spoke highly of it, and since then many agricultural writers have devoted attention to it.
But though it has been cultivated for at least 2,000 years and is now extensively grown in Malta, Spain, southern France, Russia, Germany and India, which mainly supply the market, it seems not to have developed any improved varieties.
Description of Anise
Anise has white, spindle-shaped and rather fibrous roots, which anchor stems about 18-inches tall that are branchy, erect, slender and cylindrical. Its stem leaves are more and more finely cut toward the upper part of the stem, and near the top the leaves resemble fennel leaves in their finely divided segments.
Anise produces flowers that are yellowish-white, small and in loose umbels consisting of many smaller umbellets. The fruits, or seeds, of the anise are greenish-gray, small and either ovoid or oblong in outline. They are very aromatic, sweet and pleasantly pungent.
The anise seeds, which should be as fresh as possible and never more than two years old, should be sown in permanent quarters as soon as the weather becomes settled in early spring. The climate and the soils in the warmer parts of the northern United States appear to be favorable to the commercial cultivation of anise.
There are a few steps and guidelines to follow when it comes to growing this culinary herb:
- The seeds should be planted 1/2-inch deep, 1/2-inch apart and in drills that are 15 or 18 inches apart.
- The plants should be thinned when they are about 2 inches tall to stand 6 inches asunder.
- The plants, which do not transplant readily, thrive best in well-drained, light, rich, rather dry, loamy soils well-exposed to the sun.
- A light application of well-rotted manure, careful preparation of the ground and clean and frequent cultivation are the only requisites in the management of this crop.
- In about four months from the sowing of the seed and in about one month from the appearance of the flowers, the plants may be pulled, or preferably cut, for drying.
Cooking with Anise
The leaves of anise are frequently employed as a garnish, for flavoring salads and to a small extent as pot herbs. Far more general, however, is the use of the seeds, which enter as a flavoring into various condiments, especially curry powders.
Anise is used in many kinds of cake, pastry and confectionery and some types of cheeses and bread. Anise oil is extensively employed for flavoring many beverages, both alcoholic and non-spirituous.
Other Uses of Anise
Anise has uses other than as a culinary herb. It is commonly used for disguising the unpleasant flavors of various drugs. The seeds are also ground and compounded with other fragrant materials for making sachet powders, and the oil is mixed with other fluids for liquid perfumes. Various similar anise combinations are largely used in perfuming soaps and various toilet articles.
Kains, M.G. (1912). Culinary Herbs: Their Cultivation, Harvesting, Curing and Uses. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from the Project Gutenberg Web site: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21414/21414-h/21414-h.htm#Page_59.