An annual plant, anise usually grows anywhere from 18 inches to 2 feet. It has yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It has dainty flowers with a creamy color, which forms a cluster like an umbrella. From all of its parts, the fruit or the seed is the one that is used the most, which will be further discussed below. The seeds have a gray to brown color.
In the rest of this post, we will tackle more about anise, another herb that should be an essential in the kitchen. We will take a look at where it all started, as well as its varied application in the kitchen and beyond cooking. Most importantly, you will also know more about the fundamentals of planting anise, making sure that you can grow it successfully in the garden.
History of Anise
It is believed that anise has been around since the 7th century. The plant is native to Egypt, Greece, and Asia Minor. It is regarded as one of the oldest herbs existing today, especially if you look at its varied applications since the ancient times.
Anise appeared in the bible several times. It is considered as an expensive herb. In fact, it was one of the crops used as an alternative to the payment of taxes. Being used as a currency should already give you an idea of how expensive of an herb it has been. In the gospels of Luke and Mark, this herb was prominently mentioned.
There were also several pieces of evidence showing how popular authors have mentioned anise in their published works. Dioscorides and Paladus are just some of the authors who talked about cultivating anise. Albertus Magnus, a popular priest, has also written about anise several times.
Since the ancient times, anise has gone a long way. Many people have been ingenious enough to think of creative ways to integrate it as a main ingredient in their recipes. If there is one thing that has not changed, however, it would be the fact that it still has an impressive reputation in the field of traditional medicine. The Romans have cultivated it mainly for its health benefits, and many of these benefits still hold true up to this day.
Types of Anise
One of the things that you should remember is that not all the anise that you can see are the same. They can be further categorized into different types, including the following:
Health Benefits of Anise
All over the world, from ancient to the modern times, anise has gained a favorable reputation not only because of its culinary applications, but also due to the fact that it can be beneficial for your health in more ways than one.
- Treatment of Indigestion: Anise is also called Solamen intestinorum, which means that it is a comforter for the bowels. Since the Roman times, it has been popular in the treatment of flatulence and indigestion. It can also work as a great stimulant for the appetite, as well as in the prevention of vomiting and diarrhea, among other digestive problems.
- Relief from Gas and Bloating: If you often suffer from gas and bloating, anise can be beneficial. Especially in the North America, it is regarded as one of the best forms of carminative. As a rich source of volatile oils, it can prevent contractions and remove gas from the digestive tract.
- Stimulant for Sex: Anise is also an herb that is known as a natural aphrodisiac. All that you have to do is to drink a glass of water that is infused with anise seeds, which, in turn, will help in increasing your libido. It is also considered as an alternative treatment of menopause amongst males.
- Regulates Menstruation: For women who often have an irregular menstrual cycle, anise can also be a good treatment alternative. It has an estrogenic effect, which is basically the reason for this benefit. As an antispasmodic, you can also expect that it will lessen cramps during periods.
- Heals Wounds: This is also a popular choice of herb when it comes to the treatment of wounds and prevention of infection. Specifically in the form of essential oil, it can provide a layer of protection from the wound, which can also prevent sepsis.
- Improved Oral Health: While there is no substitute for having a regular dental visit, anise is also beneficial because of its ability to improve oral health. It has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which will make it a good ingredient for home-made mouthwash.
- Natural Decongestant: If you are looking for herbs that will be exceptional for respiratory health, anise should be on the top of the list. It is also an expectorant, which can help in loosening phlegm. It can be effective in the treatment of bronchitis and asthma.
- Boosting Production of Breast Milk: For breastfeeding moms, anise is also excellent because it can boost lactation. Photoantheole and diantheole are two of the chemical components that are basically responsible for delivering this benefit.
- Treatment of Insomnia: Finding it hard to sleep at night? You will most probably benefit from drinking anise-infused tea. However, you should be cautious when boiling anise seed. doing it for a time that is longer than recommended will cause the essential oils to vaporize, and hence, losing its medicinal value as well.
Generally speaking, anise has an abundance of health benefits because of its high content of an essential oil that is known as anethole. Aside from this, it is also a rich source of copper, potassium, zinc, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium, among others.
Culinary and Other Applications of Anise
More than for traditional medicine, anise also has numerous other applications, which include the following:
- Culinary and Baking: This is perhaps the most popular use of anise beyond their applications in alternative treatments to a number of health problems. It is a popular flavoring agent, adding a distinct hint of sweetness in different recipes. It is used in cakes, bread, and confectionery, especially in European cooking.
- Insecticide: To repel insects at home, you do not have to resort to the use of insecticides that are laden with toxic chemicals, which can be harmful for both humans and environment. You can make your own and use anise as one of the main ingredients. The essential oil in anise is basically the one that drives insects away.
- Liquor Production: It is also one of the unique ingredients that can be added in liquors. There are different alcoholic drinks that use anise as one of their main ingredients, such as absinthe and Sambuca.
- Attract Bees: Although bees can sometimes be annoying, they are essential in the garden for pollination. Also, you need to attract them if you are into honey production. If the plants in the yard are not enough, anise oil can be effective. It has natural components that are known for being exceptional when it comes to attracting bees.
- Wards Off Evil Spirits: This is one of the bizarre applications of anise, although this is one thing that is practiced since the ancient times. Romans used to serve cakes with anise during weddings with the belief that this will keep the couple away from evil. It is also used in pillows to prevent nightmares.
Growing Anise: Tips and Tricks
If you have a small garden, growing anise can be an excellent idea. It might be a slow-growing plant, but, with patience, it won’t take long before it is ready for harvest. In this section, we will share with you some valuable insights that will be helpful in successfully planting anise in your herb garden.
The best way to grow anise is through its seeds. For the best outcomes, make sure to use seeds that are not older than two years. Aside from the age of the seeds, the quality of the soil is also important. See to it that it has the right temperature, which should be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plant about six to eight seeds in one pot. If you are not planting in a pot, on the other hand, see to it that there will be at least 18 inches of space in between each plant. Plant the seeds at least half an inch deep in the soil.
Still in terms of the quality of the soil, anise will demonstrate an optimal growth if the pH level of the ground is somewhere from 6.3 to 7.0. Also, the soil should be well-drained.
Aside from making sure that it is planted properly, the right positioning of the plant will also be important. This is to ensure that it will thrive. In this case, one of the most important is to plant it in an area that receives generous sunshine.
The harvest time for anise is usually from August to September. This is the point wherein the flower of the plants goes into the seeds. For a lot of people, it is hard to see the seeds from the flower, which can also make harvesting a bit of a challenge. You simply have to closely look inside the flower. You can cut the flower from the stem, but this should be done carefully. Otherwise, the seeds will unintentionally fall and you might lose them before they are harvested.
On a table or any flat surface, lay down a piece of clean cloth. Turn the anise flower upside down. Spin the flower occasionally, applying the required pressure. This will make the seeds fall on their own.
Once the seeds are yielded out of the flower, give them about 24 to 48 hours to dry, which will also be critical in the prevention of the growth of mold. Keep them in a container with a tight seal and use as desired.
Care and Maintenance for Anise
To ensure the healthy growth of an anise plant, you should be a responsible gardener. With this, one of the most important is watering. This is especially important during the first few weeks of its growth. It needs moisture to survive and to tolerate the heat in the external environment.
Once the plant starts to emerge out of the soil, it is recommended that you water it at least twice in a week. This should be done until their height reaches six inches. Once it grows at 8 inches, there can be gradual reduction in irrigation, but there is no need to fear that the plant will die.
You should also make sure that there are no weeds present in the planting bed. These weeds can absorb the nutrition that would have been for the anise that you planted. Light cultivation is recommended every now and then.
Even through the dry weather, there is a high likelihood that anise will survive. If it starts to wilt, on the other hand, one inch of watering weekly would suffice.
The application of nitrogen fertilizer can also be a good thing to take care of your anise plant. The best time to apply this would be in June or July, just before the flowers start to appear.
It should also be pointed out that anise does not have serious problems with pests and diseases, which makes it an herb that is fairly easy to grow.
Anise is not only flavorful and aromatic, but it also has a plethora of health benefits. It is a favorite herb not only among kitchen experts, but also amongst people who are into alternative medicine. It can be used not only for cooking and baking, but also for the treatment of indigestion, respiratory problems, wounds, asthma, bronchitis, insomnia, and gas, among others. With all of this, you should be now interested in planting anise in the garden and taking advantage of its many health benefits.