Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is also called aniseed or anix. It is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae family, native to Eurasia. Nowadays it grows in the Mediterranean, Spain, West Asia, Mexico, Egypt and the Middle East. It is widely cultivated and used all over the world to give flavour to different types of candy, food or alcoholic drinks, especially around the Mediterranean.
Pimpinella anisum is an annual plant that only lasts for one growing season, so you will have to keep the seeds and replant it or allow it to self-seed. You might be a bit intimidated by the idea of growing it from seeds over and over again, but the good news is Anisum is generally considered a fast-growing plant, so you will get to enjoy mature plants every season without waiting too long.
The flavour of Pimpinella anisum resembles star anise, fennel, liquorice or tarragon. A great fact about anise is that it is not toxic, so you can use this plant in the kitchen to add flavour to your homemade treats. Another advantage is that you can grow it without worrying that your curious pets interact with it, but be cautious, anise is safe for your pets only in small quantities. Consumed in large quantities, anise can trigger digestive problems in your furry companions.
|Anise, Aniseed, Anix
|up to 50 cm (20 inch) tall
|sandy, loamy, well-drained
|Mildly acidid, Neutral
|Summer, Early Autumn
|Mediterranean region, Europe, Asia, South America
- The name “anise” is derived from the Latin word “anisum” or Greek “anisum” referring to dill. And it is important not to be confused with star anise (Illicium verum) which is a different plant with a similar flavour.
- Pimpinella anisum belongs to the Umbelliferae plant family and it happens to be one of the oldest medicinal plants. Aniseeds are rich in essential oils that have been used as flavouring, digestive, and as treatment for gastrointestinal spasms.
- The most powerful flavour component of the essential oil of anise, anethole, is found in Pimpinella anisum and at the same time is also found in the unrelated spice indigenous to northern China, Star anise (Illicium verum). Due to the fact that Star Anise is less expensive to produce, the world production quantity of essential Anise oil is only 8 tons compared to 400 tons of Star Anise.
- Western cuisines have used Pimpinella anisum to flavour dishes, drinks or candies for centuries. Anise is sweet and aromatic and people find it easy to make the distinction between its flavour and the flavours of other plants.
- The seeds can be used whole or grounded in the preparation of teas or regional confectioneries, including black jelly beans.
- The anise flavour is also used as a flavouring agent in Italian sausage, pepperoni and other Italian processed meat products. In India and Pakistan, it is used as a digestive after meals.
- The freshly chopped Anise leaves can be added to cheese spreads, dips or salads, while roots and stems are used in soups and stews.
- The tradition of serving cakes at weddings is interestingly linked to anise. The ancient Romans used to serve spiced cakes with aniseed at the end of the feasts as a digestive. From this ritual of serving cake at the end of festivities appeared the modern-day tradition of eating cake at weddings.
- Anise is also used to flavour the Greek ouzo and mastika, the Italian sambuca, French absinthe, anisette and pasits, Spanish anis de chinchón, anís, anísado and Herbs de Majorca or Turkish and Armeninan raki.
- Outside the Mediterranean region, the anise flavour is found in Colombian aguardiente and Mexican xtabentún. The Pimpinella anisum is also used with other spices to add flavour to root beers.
Anise Features: An Overview
- Anise is a herbaceous annual plant that belongs to the parsley family and that grows up to 50 cm or more.
- The leaves are simple at the base of the plant. The leaves are shallowly lobed, growing from 1 to 5 cm in length, while the higher leaves on the stems are feathery pinnate, divided into numerous small leaflets.
- The flowers are either white or yellow, approximately 3 mm in diameter and are produced in dense umbels with long stalks which have five petals.
- The fruit is oblong dry and it is from 3 to 6 mm long and has five longitudinal dorsal ridges. It is usually called “aniseed” and is yellow-brown or green-brown. It also contains about 2.5% of essential oil and its principal component is anethole.
- You can plant anise near coriander, tomatoes, parsley or strawberry. But take care not to plant it near basil, onion or fennel as it would not develop well.
The anise plant needs rich, loose, loamy, well-drained soil. You will have to take care of the type of soil you provide your plant as overly sandy or overly clay soil will not help the plant to develop very well. Anise needs long, sunny days with constant temperatures between 7 to 23 degrees Celsius for the seeds to ripen completely. If you grow your anise plant in partial sun, you won’t get any seeds. But you can still enjoy the leaves.
Once the plant does go to seed, you can pull it and toss it in the compost pile after you harvest all the seeds. The plant won’t come back, but you can leave a few seed heads in place so that they can self-sow.
The young plants like moisture, so keep the soil moist and don’t let it dry out. If you are wondering how wet should soil be, check the top 3 cm of soil with your finger. If the soil is dry, you can add more water. The soil should feel like a sponge that you have wrung out very well.
The Pimpinella anisum plant can tolerate short periods of drought, but you will have to prevent the soil from becoming too dry. A little compost mulch on the soil surface can help retain moisture. Once the plants are fully developed, you can let the top 3 cm of soil dry out between waterings as the plant has now resources to feed itself.
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In the growing season, the plant does not need too much fertilizer. All it needs is a side dressing of compost in the early summer. Pimpinella anisum plant does not require pruning, but you can thin the foliage if it becomes overly crowded. The easiest way to take care of them is to simply snip off a stem from time to time and use it in the kitchen as needed.
You can harvest the leaves at any time. You only have to take care and leave at least half of the foliage behind if you want robust seed heads. Also, you need to know that the leaves don’t store well, so you will have to use them as soon as possible after cutting. When the seeds turn from green to grey it means that they have fully developed and you can cut the seed heads. You can tie them in bundles and insert them in a paper bag with air holes. Let the seeds dry and fall into the bag. After a week you can shake the bag to release the remaining seeds.
The Pimpinella anisum plant is a food source for several species of moths and butterflies, including black swallowtails and the wormwood pug. Thsee insects are not something that you need to worry about and they can even turn your garden into a healthy ecosystem. However, too many of them can kill your plants, and may also spread diseases around your garden. So, try to prevent infestation or if the infestation spread too fast, try to get rid of the insects as soon as possible.
If you chose to plant anise, you will find out that it is an easy gardening project that can provide seeds for a multitude of uses. The Pimpinella anisum seeds are small and that is the reason why generally, gardeners sow them with a seed syringe for indoor planting or mix them with sand for outside planting.
You can start anise from seed indoors in late winter, more or less 8 weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors. You can sow the seeds in biodegradable pots that can be set out in the garden after the last frost in spring. You will have to keep the seeds at a constant temperature for optimal germination. The Pimpinella anisum forms a root which does not like transplanting or moving too much. You can set seedlings in the garden in spring as soon as the soil has at least 15 degrees Celsius and it can be easily worked.
The temperature of the soil is an important aspect as it influences germination. The soil should have at least 15 degrees Celsius for best germination results. Space the seeds in rows 1 meter apart at a rate of 12 seeds per 30cm. Plant the seeds 1 cm deep into the soil. Water the plants twice a week until they are 15-20 cm in height and then gradually reduce irrigation. You may also want to protect your plants with floating row covers or a plastic tunnel to prevent them from frost. Apply fertilizer prior to flowering from June to July.
The best location for Pimpinella anisum is in full sun. It also needs a sheltered location out of the wind. Anise tolerates dry conditions but will not tolerate very wet soil. The plant grows approximately 60 cm tall and requires a warm growing season of at least 120 days.
You might be wondering if you can grow Pimpinella anisum in a container. The good news is you can and it’s very easy. Anise can thrive in containers as long as it has plenty of light and space to develop. The main reason why people usually plant Anisum in the garden is because it has a long taproot. But as long as you plant it in a deep container (at least 24 cm/10 inch deep), your Anisum will thrive. Once you find the perfect container, fill it with a well-draining, rich, and slightly-acidic soil and you are all set. You can also make your own potting mix by combining equal parts sand, soil, and peat.
When it comes to watering, the Anise plant needs to be watered as often as required to keep the soil moist, but not too saturated. Typically you should water them two times a week, but when the temperatures are higher in the summer you should water them more often. One important fact that you should be aware of is that unlike watering other plants, the anise plant does not need dried soil so you should not allow it to dry between waterings.
One tip regarding watering and determining of moisture of your Pimpinella anisum, especially in the hot summer months, is checking if the leaves start to drop. If that happens, it means they are lacking moisture so, in this case, you can try to provide some afternoon shade for your plants. Another aspect that influences the frequency of watering, is how often it rains in the area where you live and also the time of the year as in the fall, spring and winter it may rain more than in the summer.
In general, gardeners chose to propagate anise by sowing the seeds. You can use seedlings, but these are more sensitive to transplantation, so by using the sowing method you can be sure that your plants will develop well.
Sow your anise seeds in the spring after any danger of frost has passed off your area or you can sow the seeds in the fall if you live in a temperate region. Anise is not of the plants that tolerate frost, so make sure that you wait until the air and soil temperatures are warm enough in the spring before sowing the seeds. As Pimpinella anisum hails from the Mediterranean, it requires subtropical temperatures of at least 6-12 degrees Celsius, but the optimal needed temperatures are between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius.
Before starting the propagation process, you need to soak the seed overnight to help them easily germinate. Select a place in full sun and prepare the planting area by raking out any large stones and loosening the soil. Pimpinella anisum plants tolerate a wide variety of soil types, but keep in mind that it thrives in well-drained soil. If the soil lacks nutrients try to compensate by adding good-quality compost.
Sow the seeds and cover them lightly with soil and tamp them down. Water the seeds and take care to keep the planting area moist until seedlings appear in around 14 days.
The anise plant is widely used for its aroma in the culinary field. It is used as a flavouring agent in Italian sausage and pepperoni, the freshly chopped leaves are added to cheese spreads, dips or salads, while roots and stems are used in soups and stews. It is also used in beverages like in India and Pakistan, where it is used as a digestive after meals.
It is a plant that is mainly grown in the garden, rather than indoors, but you can also try your hand at growing it in containers, especially if you wish to add it to your balcony herb garden. As mentioned above, Anisum makes a great container plant as long as you plant it in a deep container that will accommodate its long taproot.
Pimpinella anisum is not a hard-to-grow plant and it is an annual fast-grower. The most important aspect of propagating and growing process is the temperature, as the seeds germinate under certain conditions and it fully develops in colder areas with constant temperatures. So, if you want to grow a plant that can be used to add flavour to your favourite dishes, Pimpinella anisum is a perfect option as you can use the leaves, roots and fruits in the kitchen.
Are you growing Pimpinella anisum a.k.a Anise in your home or garden? Let us know in the comments section!