How to Grow Anise Hyssop, the Official Herb of 2019
I remember the day the barista at my local juice bar asked me if I wanted to add wheatgrass as a “health booster” to my smoothie. I looked back at her with a raised eyebrow. Why would anyone want to put grass in their strawberry smoothie? And how was that supposed to boost my health?
This was right before someone alerted me to the trend: wheatgrass was going to be everywhere. Next, it was chia seeds, and then spirulina, then acai berries – all of which we added to our overnight oats, our Greek yogurt cups, our salads and, of course, our smoothies.
It seems that every year, a new show-stopping herb, fruit, or vegetable is crowned the next best-kept secret in health. And once it’s discovered, we can’t get enough of it – yours truly included.
The International Herb Association recently named Anise Hyssop as the 2019 herb of the year, and we expect to see it cropping up everywhere, literally. So what makes Anise Hyssop the it-herb of 2019? I couldn’t help but wonder the same thing.
What is Anise Hyssop?
If you haven’t had the pleasure of encountering Anise Hyssop in person, it looks a little like a cross between a sprig of lavender and a lilac flower. The triangular green leaves at the base of the flower resemble those of mint or catnip, and the color of the blooms is a vivid purple, though Anise Hyssop can also crop up in shades of blue, white or pink.
This perennial plant often grows as a wildflower in Zones 3 to 8 from around June to September, withstanding both chilly and humid temperatures, making it a fairly foolproof gardening venture. Interestingly enough, it belongs to the mint family, though it smells and tastes incredibly similar to the popular cooking herb of the same name: Anise, or Aniseed.
Why grow Anise Hyssop?
Suffering from an illness, ailment, or just feeling a little blah? Chances are, Anise Hyssop can probably fix whatever issue is troubling you. Since the herb is found abundantly across North America, it’s no surprise that Native Americans put this easily accessible, cure-all flower to good use. Early Americans harnessed its medicinal powers and found that Anise Hyssop worked as a cough suppressant, fever reducer, and sore throat ameliorator – an ideal solution for common colds and flus. Since the plant has antibacterial qualities, it was also used in salves to treat wounds, burns and infections.
Still not convinced there’s nothing Anise Hyssop can’t do?
- Its aromatic digestive properties help to treat gas and bloating.
- Its antiviral properties can help with cold sores.
- Native Americans even believed the uplifting, sweet smell of the Anise Hyssop leaves helped treat depression.
How do I grow Anise Hyssop?
Anise Hyssop can be grown from seed, starting it out in rock wool and then transporting the seedlings as you would with any other Tower Garden-friendly green. The seeds typically germinate in 1–4 weeks and do best in cold, moist temperatures with plenty of sun. It grows in clumps and reaches about 2–4 feet in height, so we recommend steering clear of adding too many seeds per rock wool cube in order to not crowd the plants. (If you’d like a refresher on how to grow strong, healthy seedlings, we’ve got you covered in this previous post.)
Anise Hyssop fares best in direct sunlight, so outdoor placement is optimal. However, this herb will also thrive indoors with a long-running light schedule of approximately 16 hours.
Another advantages of planting Anise Hyssop is how effectively the unscented flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators (outdoors, of course!) You may find that your other fruiting plants begin to produce more quickly and more often, thanks to the Anise Hyssop and the welcome visitors it brings.
How do I use Anise Hyssop?
Both the leaves and the flowers of Anise hyssop can be used fresh or dried. With a natural sweetness, the plant is very versatile for a variety of uses.
Here are a few of our favorite ideas for Anise Hyssop blooms:
- Use them in cooking by drying the flowers and sprinkling them over your favorite lettuce as a sweet and surprising topping in salads.
- Garnish your favorite desserts by topping ice cream, fruit, or frosted cakes with some fresh blooms for a treat that appeals to both the eye and taste buds.
- Dry the blooms and seep them in hot water to make a relaxing mug of tea with potent properties to boost health.
And several ways to utilize the Anise Hyssop leaves:
- Add fresh leaves to green smoothies, including these from our friends at Juice Plus+.
- Experiment with dried leaves in baking or use them to flavor jams and jellies. The natural sweetness makes a great sugar alternative!
- Add them wherever you use herbs in your everyday meal prep.
- Create a sweet-smelling sachet for your home (or for a gift), as the peppermint-y, licorice-y scent of Anise Hyssop leaves is delightful.
We’re curious: Had you heard of this herb before? Ever tried growing it? Let us know in the comments below.
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