Thursday, February 24, 2011

Agastache foeniculum - Anise Hyssop

Agastache foeniculum - Anise Hyssop is a native perennial member of the mint family.  Also called Blue Giant Hyssop, Licorice Mint and Hummingbird Mint. A lovely and fragant ornamental well-suited for the back of the border, the entire plant smells sweetly of anise.  It is also called Licorice Mint, (Anise - Pimpinella anisum - is a totally different plant, but its used to describe the flavor of other plants), and is one of those great herbs that grows well in the shade.

Anise Hyssop is composed of erect branches of mint-and-licorice-scented, medium green leaves ending in 4- to 6-inch dense fuzzy spikes of small, two-lipped flowers that are described as purple, dusky dull indigo-violet, blue and violet-blue. The plant grows to 3 to 5 feet tall and 1 foot wide and self-seeds prolifically. The flowers are edible and are charming crumbled into salads. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds all love the flowers and they produce nectar that makes a light, good-quality honey. They thrive in tough, dry conditions and aren’t attractive to browsing deer.  They also offer color to the garden in late summer and early fall, when many gardens are winding down and getting a bit dull.

Anise Hyssop has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans. The Cheyenne used Anise Hyssop tea to relieve depression, while the Cree and Chippewa included it in protective medicine bundles.

Leaf tea has been used for fevers, colds, coughs, to induce sweating and to strengthen a weak heart.

Anise Hyssop does well in sun or partial shade, it can take some neglect and likes dry soil.  It always dies back to the ground in winter and emerges again in early spring.  It blooms almost all summer and will freely seed itself, if not pruned.

This stately plant is not a mint and is not a licorice. But, it is a tasty culinary herb that combines licorice flavor with mint. With a sweet rather than spicy flavor, it can be used for desserts or drinks. Try steeping washed leaves in milk prior to adding the milk to your ice cream maker or coffee.  It is used to flavor tea, cakes, breads and occasionally meat or poultry.

The flowers and leaves have an intense licorice aroma and flavor. Fresh or dried, the herb makes a delicious tea that pairs well with baked goods. Dried anise hyssop leaves can be used in place of anise seeds to flavor cookies.

Crafters like Anice Hyssop because it's blossoms retain their fragrance and color when dried. 


gispa30 said...

My daughter just gave me two plants and I found your posting very nice, with some lovely photos and with info as to growing it and possibilities how to use it. Thank you. Gisella

michael said...

Hello, I recently (early July) purchased 6 nice sized plants and they did great for the past month and now in early August , parts of some of the plants are yellowing, trying up and dying back. What is wrong? Full sun, well drained, well fed (organic feed) soil.

nurul iman said...

Thank you very Steady info ... hopefully more successful.
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