Anise (or aniseed) is the dried seed of an annual herb of the parsley and carrot family. The feathery anise plant grows to about 0.6 m. The plant is mainly cultivated for its seeds, but young leaves are also used as a herb.
Native range Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, Central Asia
Major producers India, Central America, South America
Harvesting Anise plants are harvested when the fruit begins to ripen and left in stacks until ripening is complete. The tiny ovoid seeds, which vary in colour from pale brown to green-grey, are separated from the flower heads by threshing. Bits of thin stalk are often attached to the seeds.
Taste and aroma Anise seeds have a sweet aromatic bouquet with a distinctive liquorice flavour. The spiciness of the seeds is similar to fennel.
Culinary uses Anise is used in savoury and sweet dishes. The seeds are often dry roasted to enhance the aroma. In the Middle East and India, anise is used mainly in breads and savoury foods. Around the Mediterranean, anise is often used to flavour fish stews.
Other uses Oil from anise seeds is used in cough mixtures, antiseptics, perfumes, and soaps. It is also an essential ingredient in aperitifs and liqueurs such as ouzo, pastis, and anisette.
Historical uses The ability of this spice to counteract indigestion was well known to the Romans, who used to serve a special spice cake after gastronomic orgies.
Storage Anise will retain its flavour for at least 2 years if kept in an airtight container. The aroma of ground anise dissipates quickly so grind seeds as needed.