Anise hyssop and hyssop

Other Names: Anise hyssop: Anise mint; giant hyssop; licorice mint. Hyssop: Blue hyssop; esov (Hebrew); issopos (Greek); pink hyssop; white hyssop; zoufa (Farsi); zufa out (Turkish).

General Description: Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum_) has large, soft, aromatic, anise-scented leaves and long spikes of nectar-rich purple flowers. Native to North America, anise hyssop was used by Native Americans as a breath freshener, tea infusion, cough medicine, and natural sweetener. The plant was brought to Europe by beekeepers, who collect a light, fragrant honey made from the flower nectar. Korean mint (_A. rugosa), a close relative of anise hyssop, is used in Asian medicine. The two plants cross-pollinate easily, but anise hyssop smells like licorice while Korean mint instead smells of mint.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), related to anise hyssop, has aromatic, mintlike, slightly bitter leaves and lovely flowers, usually dark blue but sometimes pink or white, that make a beautiful garnish. The spiky, narrow leaves may be used as an alternative to sage and added to bouquet garni, a bundle of herbs used to season soups, stews, and braises.

Hyssop’s pungent, peppery flavor goes best with robust dishes such as potato or bean soup and beef, veal, or chicken stew. It’s also distilled for use in perfumes and in making liqueurs, especially Chartreuse.

Season: Anise hyssop and hyssop are at their best in summer, from June to October, when they are in bloom. Hyssop blooms profusely during this period.

Purchase and Avoid: Look for anise hyssop and hyssop with fragrant, lively leaves and full, deep-colored blossoms.

Serving Suggestions: Cream honey with unsalted butter and chopped anise hyssop blossoms to serve on pancakes, waffles, or toast. Use anise hyssop leaves or blossoms to make tea and to flavor drinks, such as lemonade. Use hyssop instead of sage when seasoning duck, veal, turkey, sausage, or pork. Add young hyssop leaves to salads.

Food Affinities: Anise hyssop: Butter, chicken, cream, cucumber, fish, honey, lemon, rhubarb, veal. Hyssop: Beans, beef, cranberry, duck, pork, potato, sausage, turkey, veal.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com