The sweet and spicy seed is a universal flavoring agent. Anise has ovate shaped leaves and umbels of white flowers in summer followed by ribbed, flavored seeds. The leaves can be added to salads and soups. The seeds are used to flavor bread, cakes and curries. Anise makes a good companion plant, as the flowers attract parasitic wasps. When planting out do not disturb the roots.
In this country Anise has been in use since the fourteenth century, and has been cultivated in English gardens from the middle of the sixteenth century. Anise was so popular in medieval England as a spice, medicine, and perfume that in 1305 King Edward I placed a special tax on it to raise money to repair London Bridge.
Gerard said: ‘Aniseed helpeth the yeoxing or hicket (hiccough) and should be given to young children to eat, which are like to have the falling sickness or to/such as have it by patrimony or succession.’ (epilepsy).
In the East Anise was formerly used with other spices in part payment of taxes. ‘Ye pay tithe of Mint, Anise and Cummin,’ we read in the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew, but some authorities’ state that Anise is an incorrect rendering and should have been translated ‘Dill.’
In Virgil’s time, Anise was used as a spice. Mustacae, a spiced cake of the Romans introduced at the end of a rich meal, to prevent indigestion, consisted of meal, with Anise, Cummin and other aromatics. Such a cake was sometimes brought in at the end of a marriage feast, and is, perhaps, the origin of our spiced wedding cake.
Anise is one of the oldest known herbs, a native of Egypt, Greece, Crete and Asia Minor it was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. It was well known to the Greeks, being mentioned by Dioscorides and Pliny and was cultivated in Tuscany in Roman times. In the Middle Age its cultivation spread to Central Europe. It was one of the first European herbs to have been planted in America.
It is now grown on a commercial scale in warmer areas. Southern Russia, Bulgaria, Germany, Malta, Spain, Italy, North Africa and Greece producing large quantities. It has also been introduced into India and South America.