Organic Whole Anise Seed
Organic whole anise seed (Pimpinella anisum), also called aniseed, is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. Its flavor has similarities with some other spices, such as star anise, fennel, and licorice.
Anise is an herbaceous annual plant growing to 3 ft (0.9 m) or more tall. The leaves at the base of the plant are simple, 3⁄8–2 in (1–5 cm) long and shallowly lobed, while leaves higher on the stems are feathery pinnate, divided into numerous small leaflets. The flowers are white, approximately 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) in diameter, produced in dense umbels. The fruit is an oblong dry schizocarp, 1⁄8–1⁄4 in (3–6 mm) long, usually called “aniseed”.
Anise is a food plant for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species (butterflies and moths), including the lime-speck pug and wormwood pug.
Anise was first cultivated in Egypt and the Middle East, but was brought to Europe for its medicinal value.
Anise plants grow best in light, fertile, well-drained soil. The seeds should be planted as soon as the ground warms up in spring. Because the plants have a taproot, they do not transplant well after being established, so they should be started either in their final location or transplanted while the seedlings are still small.
As with all spices, the composition of anise varies considerably with origin and cultivation method. These are typical values for the main constituents.
- Moisture: 9–13%
- Protein: 18%
- Fatty oil: 8–23%
- Essential oil: 2–7%
- Starch: 5%
- N-free extract: 22–28%
- Crude fibre: 12–25%
Anise is sweet and very aromatic, distinguished by its characteristic flavor. The seeds, whole or ground, are used for preparation of tea (alone or in combination with other aromatic herbs), as well as in a wide variety of regional and ethnic confectioneries, including black jelly beans, British aniseed balls, Australian humbugs, New Zealand aniseed wheels, Italian pizzelle, German Pfeffernüsse and Springerle, Austrian Anisbögen, Dutch muisjes, New Mexicanbizcochitos, and Peruvian picarones. It is a key ingredient in Mexican atole de anís and champurrado, which is similar to hot chocolate, and it is taken as a digestive after meals in India.
The Ancient Romans often served spiced cakes with aniseed called mustaceo at the end of feasts as a digestive. This tradition of serving cake at the end of festivities is the basis for the tradition of serving cake at weddings.
Anise is used to flavor Middle Eastern arak; Colombian aguardiente; French absinthe, anisette, and pastis; Greek ouzo; Bulgarian and Macedonian mastika; German Jägermeister; Swiss Appenzeller Alpenbitter; Italian sambuca; Dutch Brokmöpke; Portuguese, Peruvian, and Spanish anísado and Herbs de Majorca; Mexican Xtabentún; and Turkish rakı. These liquors are clear, but on addition of water become cloudy, a phenomenon known as the ouzo effect. It is believed to be one of the secret ingredients in the French liqueur Chartreuse. It is also used in some root beers, such as Virgil’s in the United States.
The main use of anise in traditional European herbal medicine was for its carminative effect (reducing flatulence), as noted by John Gerard in his Great Herball, an early encyclopedia of herbal medicine:
The seed wasteth and consumeth winde, and is good against belchings and upbraidings of the stomacke, alaieth gripings of the belly, provoketh urine gently, maketh abundance of milke, and stirreth up bodily lust: it staieth the laske (diarrhea), and also the white flux (leukorrhea) in women.
Anise has also been thought a treatment for menstrual cramps and colic.
In the 1860s, American Civil War nurse Maureen Hellstrom used anise seeds as an early form of antiseptic. This method was later found to have caused high levels of toxicity in the blood and was discontinued shortly thereafter.
- According to Pliny the Elder, anise was used as a cure for sleeplessness, chewed with Alexanders and a little honey in the morning to freshen the breath, and, when mixed with wine, as a remedy for asp bites (N.H. 20.72).
- The Biblical “anise” mentioned in some translations of Matthew 23 is dill (A. graveolens), rather than this plant.
- In 19th-century medicine, anise was prepared as aqua anisi (“Water of Anise”) in doses of an ounce or more and as spiritus anisi (“Spirit of Anise”) in doses of 5–20 minims.
- In Indian cuisines, no distinction is made between anise and fennel. Therefore, the same name (saunf) is usually given to both of them. Some use the term patli (thin) saunf or velayati (foreign) saunf to distinguish anise from fennel, although Gujarati has the term anisi or Sava.
- In Pakistan Anise is called (Soyay) and fennel is called (saunf). They are used for different purposes. While fennel is used in cooking, Anise is reserved mostly for medicinal uses. Anise is commonly used to make (Gripe Water) and (Colic Drops).
- In the Middle East, water is boiled with about a tablespoon of aniseed per teacup to make a special hot tea called yansoon. This is given to mothers in Egypt when they are nursing.
- Builders of steam locomotives in Britain incorporated capsules of aniseed oil into white metal plain bearings, so the distinctive smell would give warning in case of overheating.
- Anise can be made into a liquid scent and is used for both drag hunting and fishing. It is put on fishing lures to attract fish. In addition, it can be used to attract dogs in much the same way that catnip attracts felines.
- Anise is frequently used to add flavor to mu’assel, particularly the double apple flavor.