( Originally Published 1933 )
Sweet Alice, Heal-Dog, Heal-Bite
The anise is native to Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt. It is a graceful, attractive plant, adding to the beauty of the herb garden.
Root. It has a taproot.
Stem. The stem is shiny green, ridged, and slightly tomentose. In my garden it grew to two feet high, but in Europe it is reported as reaching four feet.
Leaf. The leaves are of two kinds; the radical ones are roundish with deep margins having fairly deep pointed teeth. The stem leaves are divided into three toothed divisions; these vary somewhat in the shape of their divisions, some being narrower than others. The raw leaf tastes at first of liquorice, then of camphor, of fresh greens, and, quite characteristically, of anise. When crushed it smells of anise.
Flower. The flowers are small, whitish, and borne in lacy, white, fairly dense umbels which measure about two and a half to three inches across and are at the terminations of the stalks.
Seed. The seeds are one-eighth of an inch long and have the stem adhering to them. They are straw-colored, roundish, ridged, and carry the remains of the style in a button-like finish at the tip, and taste strongly of anise.
HISTORY AND LEGEND
Anise is mentioned in the Bible, by Theophrastus, and Dioscorides. Pliny says that if suspended to the pillow, to be smelt by the sleeper, it will give him a youthful look and prevent disagreeable dreams. In classical days the source of anise was Egypt and Crete. It is on Charlemagne's list, and was mentioned as of medicinal value by Ibn Baithar. In the reign of Edward I, 1305, it was one of the drugs to be taxed when carried across the Bridge of London, and "little bags of fustian stuffed with iris and anise" perfumed the royal linen of Edward IV's household. Mrs. Le Boiteaux mentions that in 1619 the first Assembly of Virginia decreed that "each man, as he is settled upon his division, plant (amongst other plants specified) six aniseeds and that each are to make trial thereof the nexte season." Josselyn mentions "annis."
The oil distilled from the seeds is said to destroy lice, and be excellent as a bait for mice. The seeds are used in drag hunts when there is no fox.
Medicine. The anise seed is mentioned in the United States Pharmacopoeia. The action is aromatic, stimulant, carminative, and it increases the flow of the milk.
Perfume. The oil of the seed is a popular flavor for dental preparations, and is often blended with pepper-mint. Soaps are perfumed with it, and pomatums, but, as Piesse says, it does not do nicely in compounds "for handkerchief use."
Food. The seeds flavor bread, cake, and confectionery, and the green leaves are good in salads, or as a garnish. The Portuguese are fond of it as are the Neapolitans, who put it into everything. In a portion of southwestern France a pancake flavored with it is a specialty of the region. Recipes for anise cookies and anise bread were brought from Germany by my grandmother.
The oil flavors many liqueurs, such as absinth, anisette, ratafia d'Anis, eau de vie d'Hendaye, pferfermünze liqueur, kalmus liqueur, roscan aromatique, and in Italy the rosolio de Torino, and in England, usquebaugh.
Fresh home-grown anise seed is far more potent than the bought ones, and is therefore well worth the slight trouble of growing it, for anise comes readily from seed. It prefers a moderately rich, well-drained loam, which has been carefully prepared, and a warm, sunny exposure. The seed is sown in May, and when the plants are a few inches high they should be thinned if too thick. My plants flowered in about six weeks after sowing.
Harvest. As soon as the seeds turn grayish I cut off the umbels and dry them in the shade; then bottle them in glass containers.
It is grown commercially in France, Germany, Russia, and Spain, whence comes the best anise known as alicante. It is also grown in the United States, chiefly in Rhode Island.