Origin: Mediterranean, particularly the Middle Eastern side and the East African coast
Etymology: from the Greek anison, “to make gush”
Anise was widely used in ancient Egypt. It was also appreciated by the Romans because it facilitated digestion. They would serve a little cake studded with anise at the end of their gastronomic orgies.
It was widely used in the Middle Ages, thanks to Charlemagne who ordered it grown in 812.
In 1305, in England, anise was one of the spices taxed to pay for repairs to London Bridge. In 1453 it was still strictly controlled by the London spice company.
Anise belongs to the same family as parsley and carrot. About 60 cm (2') in height, the plant is found just about everywhere, from southern Russia to northern Africa, India, and Central and South America. The fruit is collected when nearly ripe. It is left to ripen on racks, then the seeds are separated from the flower heads.
This Pimpinella should be distinguished from fennel (the vegetable) and from star anise (fruit of an exotic Chinese tree).
The anise we're speaking of is an umbellifer and its small ovoid fruits, with lengthwise ridges on a verdigris background, have a warm and spicy flavor and a remarkably aromatic odor.
Powdered anise is fragile - grind small quantities of the seeds yourself as needed.
Crush the seeds with a rolling pin.
A distinct, delicate licorice flavor, similar to fennel.
It is used to flavor fish soups, sauces, breads and cookies.
Its fruity, slightly peppery flavor adds a pleasant note of freshness to jams, breads and chutneys.
If you have the chance to collect the leaves, they can be used to enhance vegetable and game marinades, as well as salads and fish soups.
In ancient times, green anise seeds were added to poultry and game pies to promote digestion. Today they may still be added to rich terrines and pâtés.
In distilling, they are used to flavor French Pernod, Ricard and anisette, Spanish ojen, Turkish raki, Greek ouzo, Italian sambuca and Middle Eastern arak.
Substitute: star anise, fennel seeds
Green anise is antispasmodic: it calms nervous system disorders and dry coughs, stimulates the appetite and digestion and counteracts fatigue.
The oil extracted from the seeds is used to fight coughs and as an antiseptic.
In infusions, anise seeds provide a stimulant and carminative effect, recommended to ease bloating, indigestion, flatulence and burping.
Around 52 BC, Caesar, the future Roman emperor, granted lands to some of his veteran soldiers after his victory in Gaul. Flavinius received a hill that bore his name, Flaviniacum, now called Flavigny. Caesar took with him some anise seeds to use for his troop's care. This was probably the first step in the history of the anise candy, later best associated with the Abbey of Flavigny where the monks today still make famous candy-coated anise seeds. In the same era, anise was considered a precious plant. When he married Marguerite de Provence, St. Louis de France welcomed to his palace a whole retinue of poets, apothecaries and candy-makers, strictly supervised by the king's mother Blanche de Castille. New recipes used anise, to the delight of the "anysetiers" of the Rue Vieille du Temple. The little sugar candies were highly appreciated by the ladies of the court and were renamed "dragées à la reine" to prevent any jealousy.
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