Jacqueline Soule this week to discuss an herb that helps digestion – anise. Sharing some uses in the kitchen, plus how to harvest this healthy herb.
Most of the anise plant is useful. Seeds, fresh leaves, and flowers are used to promote digestion and to relieve stomach upsets. An infusion (tea) of the seeds has been shown to increase glandular secretions, including gastric glands (saliva and stomach), sweat glands, and mammary glands.
Anise has mild expectorant* qualities, thus it was once used in asthma powders, and is currently used in some cold remedies. Some studies show it is helpful to alleviate menstrual cramps. In aromatherapy, anise properties are: digestive, head-clearing, warming, clarifying, respiratory, and muscle relaxant.
In the 1970’s anise oil was rumored to be carcinogenic. Since then those fears have proven groundless.
*expectorant = help the body cough up or otherwise get rid of mucus.
A Father Kino Herb
Padre Kino helped bring a number of European herbs to the Southwest, and anise was one of them. Before the introduction of European anise, the winter tarragon, also called sweet marigold (Tagetes lucida) was used for an anise flavor. The Spanish settlers called Tagetes lucida “yerba anise.”
To learn about how to grow anise – right now in the Sonoran garden – read my Gardening With Soule recent blog post on the topic – here.
Harvesting and Use of Anise
Leaves & Flowers
Fresh leaves are best. Like cilantro, much of the flavor is lost when they are dried. Due to their flavor, they do go well anywhere you would use tarragon – like in egg dishes.
A few fresh leaves can be added to salad, or to green beans as they steam. I tried some with broccoli and that was not so good.
Leaves and/or flowers make a nice refreshing tea. A tea pot or tea strainer is a great investment.
The trick is to let the seeds dry fully before you store them. To do this, cut the whole seed cluster off the plant once seeds are no longer green. Place the seed clusters into a large paper bag to dry for a few weeks. Leave the bag open at top. Once they are dry they will fall off the cluster to the bottom of the bag. Winnow the seed by placing a handful at a time in a kitchen collendar , pr maybe a large strainer, depending on hole size. Shake it so the chaff falls through and the seed stays behind.
Anise seed makes a nice high note of flavor when used in a brine for pork or poultry (think Thanksgiving turkey). Used seed – in moderation – in breakfast sausage. Many Indian dishes call for anise seed.
I do like to soak the seed in warmed cream and use this to make icing for white or pound cake. Strain well!
Want to Learn More?
Sign up for our weekly newsletter with cooking tips and herbs each week. Or – come to one of Jacqueline’s lectures! Look for her at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we will get a few pennies.
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