The anise plant – scientific name, Pimpinella anisum – belongs to the Apiceae family, to which fennel also belongs. Its small seeds, with their sweet and intense flavor, are often used in the preparation of a variety of meats, or as an accompaniment to vegetables and cheeses.
Originally from the Middle East, anise spread throughout the Mediterranean at the time of the Romans and Greeks, and was imported in the Americas shortly after the voyages of Columbus. Today, it is grown wherever a warm climate permits, but mostly in the Mediterranean area and in India.
WHY IT SHOULD BE EATEN
Anise seeds have digestive and anti-swelling properties, and they are the basis of herbal anti-inflammatory medicinals for coughs. They are rich in aromatic oils that stimulate the appetite and the digestion, and help the intestinal microflora in hindering abdominal pain.
In an infusion, along with fennel seeds for an enhanced effect, anise seeds work to deflate the belly – and they truly are excellent!
In cooking, anise seeds can be used in sweet and savory dishes, either whole or chopped. Add them to flavor stewed fruit or for milk-based desserts.
In meat courses, they give an intense perfume to rabbit, poultry, pork, or beef, especially in those dishes that are cooked slowly over low heat, such as pot roast and beef stews.
You can also try them as a digestive infusion in the evening, with the addition of ice to create a thirst quenching drink, or for the preparation of liqueurs.
Anise was introduced by the Arabs, who brought it to Sicily, where it has long been used in making beverages. Absinthe, the drink banned in the Bohemian period, is made with anise and may be distinguished by its pronounced taste.
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