Anise, also known as aniseed, is a half hardy annual, grown mainly for its liquorice flavoured seeds. Plants grow to around 50cm in height and come July and August, will be covered in pretty white flowers. It prefers a sunny, sheltered spot and well-drained soil. Anise is also suitable for growing in pots.
Sow: your anise seeds direct, in shallow drills, as soon as the ground warms in Spring and all signs of frost have passed. Alternatively, sow in pots and lightly cover with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite.
Aftercare: Thin to 10cm apart when seedlings are large enough to handle. Pinching out the growing tips will encourage bushy growth. Provide support, if required, as the plant grows and the flower heads become heavy.
Harvest: young leaves as required. Seed heads will form following flowering in late summer or early autumn. If the weather is turning cold by this time, encourage the seeds to mature by cutting the whole plant down and allowing it to dry slowly in a warm place.
The sweet, aromatic seeds are widely used to flavour cakes, breads and drinks. Young leaves can also be used sparingly in salads and in soups, stews and curries. Anise is also thought to have numerous medical properties and is widely used as a digestive aid. Whole seeds are generally used in teas, infusions and to decorate, with powder, achieved by lightly toasting and then grinding the seeds, being preferred for cooking.
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