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Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a beautiful plant, a perennial herb that is native to North America. It thrives in sunny locations, has long spikes of lavender flowers that generally bloom June through September, and is a member of the mint family.

anise hyssop

I have a large patch in my garden: because it grows in a “clumping” manner, it has spread out a great deal since I planted it two years ago. It is constantly buzzing with honeybees…

anise hyssop bee

…and butterflies and hummingbirds love it, too.

Apart from it being lovely to look at (the cut flowers enhance any arrangement), anise hyssop can and should be consumed. The flowers have a very sweet licorice-like flavor, and it makes a delicious tea that is said to benefit the digestion (steep 2-3 tablespoons of bruised fresh leaves in 2 cups of boiled water for 5 minutes or so, strain and drink hot or iced).

In The Good Herb: Recipes and Remedies from Nature, author Judith Benn Hurley suggests using the tea to poach peaches, a fantastic idea I am definitely going to try.
The leaves can also be added to baked goods, including fruit tart/pie crusts, and I’ll certainly be giving this a go, as well.

I recently discovered that anise hyssop leaves make a wonderful addition to salads. Yesterday, I combined some sauteed greens with cherry tomatoes, cooked fava beans, and naturally smoked mozzarella. I drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, and then sprinkled it with chopped anise hyssop. Yum!

anise hyssop salad

According to Hurley, anise hyssop also has some notable medicinal uses: the Cheyenne and Chippewa used the flowers and leaves as a cold and cough remedy. In a month or two, I plan to dry the leaves and then preserve them in honey to have on hand for treating illness over the winter.

More Anise Hyssop Ideas:
Blueberry Hyssop Ice Cream from Isabelle Boucher
Anise Hyssop Sauce Recipe from Chow
“Fancy” Watermelon With Chevre and Anise Hyssop from the Washington Post
Beet and Fennel Saute with Anise Hyssop from Heart of Cooking

summer-fest-2010-logoThis spotlight on anise hyssop is my contribution to this week’s edition of Summer Fest, a cross-blog food event celebrating peak harvest season. The focus this week is on beans, greens and herbs: check out the links to all the main summer fest posts here, and make sure to check out the comments section at each of the host blogs, too, for even more greens, beans, and herb recipe links!

This post is also linked to the 5th edition of Simple Lives Thursday.

 

13 Comments

  1. 1

    CherylK — August 11, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

    What a great post. We live on a lake here in Minnesota and we’ve got hundreds of native flowers and grasses planted in a lakescape to help prevent erosion into the lake. One of my favorites is the anise hyssop…we’ve got tons of it. It’s beautiful and smells just like licorice (anise, of course). I knew that it was used for medicinal purposes but have never really learned much more about it. I’m definitely going to try the tea and toss some in my next salad!

  2. 2

    drwinnie — August 11, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    CherylK- definitely try in it your cooking. I am going to make the tea poached peaches really soon ;)

  3. 3

    Barbara @ moderncomfortfood — August 11, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

    Many thanks for the tip. This grows at my NC farm and I’ve been admiring it for decades. I had no notion of it uses, only its beauty.

  4. 4

    Monet — August 11, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

    I adore licorice in my tea, so I’m sure that I would be delighted with this hyssop. I love all the beautiful things that you can grow, and I’m excited to start working on my own garden. Thanks for sharing…and I’m excited about those peaches!

  5. 5

    Cherie — August 11, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

    Wow….had no idea it was so beautiful & have so many uses! I look forward to planting some & trying them all. Thanks for all the info!!

  6. 6

    Sense of HOme — August 12, 2010 @ 6:35 am

    I love growing herbs in my garden and so many herbs grow in the wild, waiting for us to make use of them. An excellent post!

    -Brenda

  7. 7

    Becky — August 12, 2010 @ 7:25 am

    I love this post; so informative about an herb I knew nothing about! thanks. It’s beautiful too!!!

  8. 8

    drwinnie — August 12, 2010 @ 7:51 am

    Thanks Barbara, Monet, Cherie, Brenda, and Becky: I wasn’t sure if readers would find this post to be a complete snooze, or if they’d like it (since there’s no official recipe involved), but I love herbs and like to share what I grow and know about them, so thanks for the positive comments!

  9. 9

    Alicia — August 13, 2010 @ 6:29 am

    I am ALWAYS looking for new herbs to grow because they’re so easy and consistent. Thank you for this, and for contributing to Simple Lives Thursday!

  10. 10

    Anise Hyssop and Honey Poached Peaches and Cape Gooseberries | Healthy Green Kitchen — August 18, 2010 @ 8:10 am

    [...] mentioned that I planned to try poaching peaches in anise hyssop tea last week; local peaches have been spectacular this year, so I was eager to give this a [...]

  11. 11

    Mrs. Larkin — August 26, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    Winnie, I just finished up the last of my Plum-Anise Hyssop Ice Cream. It’s really yummy with plums! Such a lovely herb – found a huge patch of it at my sister’s and quickly dug up a few pieces. Hoping it will take root so I’ll have more to play with next year. The tea sounds great! Thanks for posting!

  12. 12

    Bounty of Deliciousness in a Box: My First & Last CSA box | Kitchen Butterfly — September 7, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

    [...] {Please read more about anise hyssop at Winne Ab’s Healthy Green Kitchen.} [...]

  13. 13

    Project Food Blog Challenge #1...Ready, Set, Blog! | Healthy Green Kitchen — September 17, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

    [...] someone to put purslane it in their salad. Or maybe it will get them out in their yard to discover an edible plant like anise hyssop. It might give them the confidence to try this healthier version of pop-tarts. Or take on a new [...]

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