Other Names: Alcaçuz (Portuguese); black sugar; glykoriza (Greek); jethimadh (Hindi); kan ts’ao (Chinese); kanzou (Japanese); lakrichnik (Russian); lakrids (Danish); lakritze or sussholz (German); liquirizia or regolizia (Italian); liquorice, orozuz, or ragaliz (Spanish); réglisse (French); shush kireah (Hebrew); Spanish juice; sus (Arabic); susu (Swahili); zoethout (Dutch).

General Description: Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is used for its root and the juice extracted from it; both have a powerful aroma reminiscent of anise or fennel but considerably stronger and a sweet, warm, rather medicinal taste. Licorice root, especially the root bark, contains about 4 percent glycyrrhizin, which is about 50 times sweeter than sucrose (cane sugar). Licorice was known to the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans as a remedy for coughs and colds. The black juice extracted from the roots was taken as a refreshing drink by the Greeks and Romans. German and Russian licorice is extracted from wild licorice (G. echinata). Chinese licorice (G. uralensis), widely cultivated in China, is grown for export and also to flavor Chinese master sauces, in which a strongly salted and spiced broth is used and reused as a cooking liquid.

In northern Europe, especially Holland, northern Germany, and Scandinavia, licorice is the base of traditional candies made from evaporated licorice juice plus flavorings like lemon or, more traditionally, salmiac (sal ammoniac, or ammonium chloride), and usually no sugar. The Dominican monastery at Pontefract, England, which first cultivated licorice in the sixteenth century, later became the center of the English licorice candy industry. In Mongolia, licorice leaves are called nakhalsa and used as a tea. Licorice root is added for flavor, body, and black color to porter and stout, Turkish raki, and Italian Sambuca, as well as snuff and chewing tobacco. It is widely used as a flavoring for candies, baked goods, ice cream, and soft drinks. Licorice-based sweets are suspected to cause high blood pressure, but it is unclear whether consumption of a few licorice candies has any significant effect. The sweetness in licorice root is safe for diabetics.

Purchase and Avoid: Licorice may be found dried in root form; as a gray-green, very fine, talcumlike powder, especially in natural foods stores; and in a liquid extract from Italian and other Mediterranean groceries.

Serving Suggestions: Flavor custard and panna cotta with licorice. Add a little licorice extract to fruit salads. Season roast pork or chicken with a few melted licorice candies.

Food Affinities: Allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel seed, ginger, ice cream, pepper, poached fruit, pork, poultry, Szechuan pepper.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com