A Gardener’s Diary: It’s all about anise

Jocelyne Sewell takes a look at this herb that belongs to the mint family

I would like to start this gardening column by apologizing about the omission of the author’s credit about garlic in my last column. I was reminded by a reader that I was committing plagiarism by copying from the internet. This was not the intention as I usually remind readers when I get my information from books or the internet. Most of the time, the same information and the same words are used from one web site to the next. I take the ones that have more credibility and are expressed in better words than I could write myself.

Harvesting Garlic was written by Marie Iannotti. I had checked several sites and this one had all the information from other sites. From references on Wikipedia, garlic has been used for more than 7,000 years and is native to central Asia. I am sure that a few articles have been written using the same information.

For today, I am taking the article about anise hyssop also from the internet, from herbs2000.com. I have been growing this plant in my garden for a few years now. At the moment, most of my plants are blooming and the bees are having a feast. The plants reseed easily but can be pulled out if not wanted, and added to the compost.

The ideal growing conditions for anise hyssop include a properly drained, fertile soil that comprises properly decomposed manure and compost. While growing in its natural environments, this herb thrives well in soils that can retain moisture, but are not damp or drenched. This herb has a preference for total sunlight, but it is also able to endure partial shade. It is essential to keep the plants moist during the arid weather, or else they will not bear flowers in the later part of summer.

Anise hyssop (botanical name Agastache foeniculum) belongs to the mint family. It is very often grown as a garden plant, where this herb makes an extremely beautiful backdrop plant. Anise hyssop produces sharp, vivid green leaves that are notched at the edges. During the spring, new undergrowths usually have an attractive purple-hued radiation. The aroma as well as the essence of the foliage has a fascinating blend of mint and anise. The herb produces elongated flower spikes composed on several attractive small lilac-blue flowers during the period between July and September. Honey bees are very much attracted by anise hyssop and it is extensively cultivated in the form of a honey herb. In addition, the flowers of anise hyssop are also an excellent source of nectar for butterflies. On the other hand, wild birds, particularly finches, find the seeds of the plant attractive.

The flowers as well as the leaves of anise hyssop are both edible. In folk herbal medicine, anise hyssop tea has been employed to facilitate the digestive process. The leaves and flowers have excellent taste when they are consumed raw and possess a sweet aniseed flavour. The leaves and flowers of this herb actually make a delectable addition to the salad bowl and may also be employed to add essence to cooked foods, particularly acid fruits.

The sole problem with anise hyssop leaves is that they are prone to having a drying impact in the mouth and, therefore, it is not possible to consume them in large quantities. The leaves are used to prepare a pleasurable tasting and refreshing tea. We add a few leaves to our green tea.

For more information: 250-558-4558.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast and a member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.