By Susan Belsinger, Author, Blogger, Herbalist
Reposted with permission from www.vegetablegardener.com.
Although we are enjoying Hops, which is Herb of the Year 2018, we are gearing up for Agastache, Herb of the Year for 2019. Agastache includes other herbs besides anise hyssop (some even mint scented), however I am concentrating on the anise-scented one here today.
Anise Hyssop was HSA’s Herb of the Month for July 2018.
While commonly called anise hyssop, the odor is more similar to French tarragon, though sweeter, with a hint of basil. The foliage and flowers taste similar to the aroma-sweet, with the licorice of tarragon and basil-and just a bit floral.
All of the thirty or so Agastache species are good for honey production and make great ornamental perennials. The flowering plants go well with the silver-leaved species of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum), which flower about the same time in the July garden and also provide good bee forage. The young, broad, dark green leaves of A. foeniculum, tinged purple in cool weather, are attractive with spring bulbs such as yellow daffodils.
Agastache species do not have GRAS status, even though the leaves of many species have been used for centuries as a substitute for French tarragon, infused in syrups and cordials, or brewed into tea, and the flowers have been used with fruit, in desserts and confections, and mixed in salads. Both the leaves and flowers make good additions to potpourri.
Agastache foeniculum is most often grown, though A. mexicana, A. rugosa, and A. scrophulariifolia provide similar flavors to French tarragon and basil, though may include plants scented of peppermint or pennyroyal.
hardy short-lived perennial, 3 to 5 feet high
hardiness to zone 4, preferring cool summers
full sun to part shade
keep moist but not wet
soil rich in organic matter, pH 7.0
Cultivation and propagation
Agastache species need little more than partly shaded to sunny, well-drained, acid- to near-neutral soil. The seeds (actually tiny nuts, or nutlets) are most easily started by broadcasting; established clumps readily reseed themselves, often in tiny nooks and crannies or the middle of the garden path. Seeds may also be sown in the greenhouse, with transplants in six to eight weeks. Clumps generally last two to three years, becoming very woody at the base and eventually dying. Since reseeding is not a problem, anise hyssop will persist in your garden yet never really become weedy; it is easy to move about. The soil should be evenly moist, well drained, slightly acid, and high in organic matter.
Harvesting and preserving
For tea, harvest leaves early in the day during a sunny, rain-free spell close to when the plants will be flowering. Then dry the leaves and store them in glass jars. Anise hyssop makes an unusual vinegar for salads and a tasty cordial if you like sweet licorice. Our friend puts anise hyssop in his vodka, which he keeps in the freezer, for a preferred libation. Leaves are sometimes candied as a confection for desserts. Blossoms are often harvested fresh as edible flowers for salads, beverages, syrups, and desserts.
Susan Belsinger lives an herbal life, whether she is gardening, foraging, herborizing, photographing, teaching, researching, writing or creating herbal recipes for the kitchen or apothecary—she is passionate about all things herbal. Recently referred to as a “flavor artist”, Susan delights in kitchen alchemy—the blending of harmonious foods, herbs, and spices—to create real, delicious food, as well as libations, that nourish our bodies and spirits and titillate our senses.
She has been blogging regularly for Taunton Press’ www.vegetablegardener.com for the past seven years. Her latest publication The Culinary Herbal: Growing & Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs co-authored by Susan Belsinger and Arthur O. Tucker—was released in January 2016 by Timber Press. www.susanbelsinger.com
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Awesome. So glad you’re raising awareness of these beautiful herbs!