Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum is the Herb of the Year for 2019 according to International Herb Association.
I am happy as this is one of my favorite herbs to grow. It grows well, without many problems, which is good as a start. It is also a perennial herb here is New Hampshire. This member of the mint family self seeds, another plus in my gardening book. Free plants every year, yes, that works just fine for me! It is a rather compact herb, in that it doesn’t sprawl all over the place and grow in every crack like its other members of the mint family. Its growth habits are quite different. It grows nice and tall, two to three feet and stays neatly in its growing area. Even though it spreads via self seeding, the self seeders grow nearby to the original plant, not next door in the neighbors yard. It is upright in its growth habit and has beautiful dark green, heart shaped leaves. The adorable purple/pink flower spikes show up at the top of every stem. When cut back it easily branches and creates more spiked flowers. It starts to bloom in early August and keep going into the frost time. It can take light frosts. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow.
Do be aware that there is some competition with the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds for the flowers. The bees love them all the way back to the house where I have to encourage the bees to leave the flower and find another blossom. In the evening, I find bumble bees resting in the flowers and leaves for the night. During the cooler fall days, I have found that I bring a few of the buzzing friends in with me. I have picked up a handful of Anise Hyssop that I cut earlier in the day to find that it is vibrating. Talk about opening your eyes wide in surprise, both mine and the bees.
This herb is wonderful for many things. It is a herb known for its scent and flavor. It makes a great tea, both fresh and dried. Infused in honey it releases its anise flavor. It can be infused in vinegar for cooking. Both the leaves and flowers can be added to salads of all sorts. It dries beautifully for potpourri, although I don’t think I would use it for that as its benefits in tea outweighs its look on the shelf. I just love its licorice flavor. During the hot summer days a few leaves of Anise Hyssop in my water makes a refreshing summer tonic.
It is native to prairies, the plains and dry forested areas from Ontario, Mid-west to British Columbia. The licorice-like flavor could be where is gets it name. Used by Native Americans for coughs, colds and many other ailments. (2)
If you are looking for a nice herb for the flower garden, herb garden or potted herb on the patio, try some Anise Hyssop. Just be ready to share it with the busy bees when in blossom.
Here is a recipe for Herbal Honey that Maria and Storey Publishing has graciously allowed me to share.
Excerpted from Body Into Balance © by Maria Noël Groves. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.
“Cooking” herbs in honey works well for tasty and aromatic herbs, such as lemon balm, anise hyssop, or mint, as well as those used as expectorants or cough/cold remedies, such as bee balm, thyme, ginger, and fresh spring pine branches. Save the dregs and use them to make sweet tea.
- Chop up your fresh or dried herb, as needed.
- For every 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herb or 1/4 cup of dried herb, add 2 cups of honey.
- Bring to nearly a boil, then turn off the heat and let cool.
- Repeat at least once and up to three times daily for 3 days. (Fresh, juicy herbs need at least a few heatings. Aromatic herbs may need less, while subtle herbs like rose petals and root medicines do well with repeated heatings over a few days.)
- After the last heating, pour the warm mixture through a strainer and into glass jars. Let cool with the lid off.
- Once the honey has cooled, check the viscosity. If it’s as thick as or thicker than plain honey, it should be shelf stable for at least a year. If it’s more watery, the moisture from the plant will shorten the shelf life significantly, and you should refrigerate it; it will keep for up to 3 months. It’s okay if herbal honey crystallizes, but throw it away if you notice any signs of mold or fermentation.
Variation: Raw Herbal Honey. This alternative method is very easy but takes more time. It also takes advantage of the benefits of raw honey that would be lost if you cooked it. Just chop up your herb and loosely pack it in a jar. Cover with honey to the top. Seal and let sit for a few weeks or so. Every day or two, flip the jar. When the honey tastes good, plunk the jar in warm water to get the honey runny. Strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the herbs with a spoon to push out as much honey as you can.
Note: The moisture in fresh plants increases the likelihood of spoilage and fermentation, especially with the raw method. Evaporating the moisture through cooking, drying the herbs, or wilting the fresh plants in advance, or refrigerating the honey and using it up quickly, will lessen the risk.
Maria is a Clinical Herbalist in practice in New Hampshire. To purchase her books, visit her fantastic website: WintergreenBotanicals.com