The plant is cultivated for its seeds (anise seed or aniseed), but young leaves are also used as an herb. Its earliest use was medicinal, but the Romans introduced it as a flavoring in meals, especially in desserts served at the end of a meal to aid digestion.
This delicate plant, native to the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, is related botanically to caraway, cumin, dill, and fennel. It is now widely established throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.
Tbout Taste: The aroma and taste of the seeds are sweet, licorice-like, warm, and fruity, but Indian anise can have a hint of bitterness. The seeds are more subtly flavored than fennel or star anise. The leaves have the same aromatic, sweet, licorice notes, with mild peppery undertones.
Parts Used: Seeds, leaves.
Buying & Preserving: It can be grown from seed, and plants are available from some herb nurseries. As a spice, anise seed is best bought whole; examine that there’s only a minimum of stems and husks. In an airtight container it will retain its flavor for at least 2 years.
Harvesting: Just before the fruit ripens, plants are pulled up and left to dry. They are threshed and the seeds spread on trays in partial shade to dry further. To dry anise you’ve grown yourself, put the seedheads in paper bags and hang them in a well-ventilated place.
In Europe, seed is usually used to flavor desserts, breads, cookies, and sweet fruit dishes. It flavors some rye breads, Scandinavian pork stews, and root vegetable dishes. The Portuguese add a handful of anise seed to the water when boiling chestnuts to impart a delicate fragrance. Figs and anise have a natural affinity; in Catalonia, desserts are made of chopped, dried figs and almonds flavored with anise, and in Italy, a fig and dried fruit “salami” is flavored with anise and anisette. Around the Mediterranean, anise usually flavors fish stews, and its essential oil is in demand to flavor aperitifs and liqueurs similar to ouzo, pastis, and anisette. In the Middle East and India, anise is usually utilized in breads and savory foods. In India dry-roast seeds enhance the aroma of vegetable and fish curries and, fried in hot oil, they garnish lentils. Anise is also valued for its digestive properties; along with different spices it’s offered in the traditional paan at the end of the meal. In Morocco and Tunisia, anise flavors breads; in Lebanon, it goes into fritters and spiced custards.
Ground seeds: The aroma of ground anise dissipates quickly. Grind seeds as needed.
Good with chestnuts, figs, apples, fish and seafood, nuts, pumpkin, root vegetables. Combines well with ajowan, cardamom, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, cumin.