(Pimpinella anisum – Family Umbelliferae)
Aniseed is native to the eastern Mediterranean region, but also found in Israel, Syria, and Egypt. Since very ancient times, it has also grown in Greece and the Italian peninsula. The anise plant is related to fennel and has a similar appearance, except that it is shorter. The anise seed has long been used as flavouring for breads and cakes. It is still popular with Italians, but not with many other Europeans. Anise has an extremely penetrating flavour and should always be used sparingly. An aromatic oil (anethole) extracted from the seeds is utilized in various medicinal preparations. The roasted seeds are sometimes chewed after a meal, especially in Afghanistan and India, to sweeten the breath and to aid in digestion. The “star anise”, or badian, (Illicium verum – Family Illicaceae), is a very different plant; but it has almost an identical flavour since it has the same aromatic oil. It is not known in the wild, but assumed to be native to northwest China and related to the magnolia. It is used mainly in the making of potent beverages.