What gorgeous weather we’ve had in WNC lately. I hope it will stay with us all weekend as we participate in the Asheville Herb Festival. We will have over 50 types of herb seeds there, as well as veggie and flower seeds. We’ll also have some really happy looking veggie and flower starts. Come visit our booth!
On the subject of herbs, I’d like to highlight an easy-to-grow, flowering perennial herb with many attractive features – Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). This mid-western, prairie native grows in bushy 3′ clumps. It’s anise-scented foliage and purple flowers can be used for tea, culinary seasoning, and bouquets. The flowers dry well for potpourris. It has long-blooming, nectar-laden flowers that bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love. Goldfinches like to eat its seeds.
The Cheyenne made a tea for a “dispirited heart” from the flowers. The Iroquois made a wash against poison ivy out of it. Other historic uses were as a protective charm, a poultice for burns, and as an incense. The flower essence is said to “bring back sweetness after one has indulged in unwarranted guilt, to encourage honest communication, and to allay anxiety before exams or performances”.
Anise Hyssop prefers full sun but will tolerate part shade. It is hardy up to zone 5. Seeds will germinate better if cold stratified. Plant them 1′ to 1.5′ apart in well-drained soil. They require light to germinate, so barely cover them. The seedlings will emerge in 7-14 days. Anise Hyssop blooms in the second year. If you cut it back by 1/3 after bloom, the plant will bush out and bloom again. It easily self seeds. Once established it will send up shoots from the roots and grow wider. Some sources say deer don’t like to eat it, let us know if you find this to be true.
The leaves and flowers are edible, with a sweet lemony licorice flavor. Use the flowers to garnish and sweeten tea, flavor sugar, bread, honey. Add 1/2 cup chopped flowers to muffins, or 2 tablespoons to butter cookie dough.
Here are a few recipes to tantalize your tastebuds:
Infusion Of Fresh Anise Hyssop And Candied Anise Hyssop Sprinkles
Anise-Hyssop Apple Tart
Anise Hyssop Honey Butter
Anise Hyssop Sauce for Lamb
This plant has many names: giant hyssop, lavender hyssop, licorice mint, blue giant hyssop, anise-mint, lavender hyssop, licorice mint, wonder honey plant, elk mint, and fragrant hyssop.