Among the various uses of anise it is possible to remember the flavoring of liqueurs, bread, buns and desserts. It is a plant native to the Middle East. Historical indications indicate it as a flavoring plant with very ancient origins. Even the Romans used this special plant by adding it to wine or water. Later, around 1200 d.c. approximately, the French founded the Ordre des anysetiers du roy, testimony of the importance of this plant not only in the medical field but also in the tradition and in the use and popular custom. This plant therefore crosses the culture of the peoples that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. Its scent, its taste and its sweetness have in fact been the inspiration of great writers such as Gabriele D'annunzio, Maria Grazia Deledda and Pasolini.
Acetol, taken in small doses, is a substance with recognized beneficial effects: it has a diuretic action, stimulates digestion, is an excellent antimicrobial and antifungal. By slightly increasing the doses, this plant can become an excitement of the nervous system and therefore become anti-immunosuppressive. Anise grows in deep, limestone-rich soils. Less common in Italy, on the other hand, is Star Anise, a native of South East Asia and widespread in the southern part of China, Vietnam and India.
The flowers are generally very small and white in color. The fruits, which are often mistakenly called seeds, are achenes. The latter are intensely flavored and can therefore be used in the preparation of liqueurs, candies and various desserts. The leaves can instead be added to the preparation of herbal teas or infusions.
But how to proceed for cultivation? We must first sow in spring, on a medium moist soil, creating rows about 50 cm apart from each other. Germination takes place in approximately 15/20 days, it can also be faster in case of favorable climate. Once sprouted, the seedling will grow quickly. It is also advisable to avoid transplants as they are not easily tolerated by this plant. The ideal place to get a good result is a land exposed to sunlight but sheltered from the wind. The regular and constant watering is very important for the growth of the aromatic plant. It is fundamental to provide for the weeding of the soil as this is a plant very sensitive to the weeds that condition it, and in some cases hinder, the flowering and therefore the growth. It is possible to cultivate this type of plant even in pots, as the size of the plant is not absolutely excessive and the height of the plant reaches a maximum of half a meter in height.
Climate and fertilization
The ideal climate for the best growth of this type of plant is between 15 and 25 degrees centigrade. Fertilization requires manure or another organic fertilizer. The latter allows to enrich the mineral soil and improve the mixture. Later it is also possible to supply a slow release fertilizer. The main adverse effects to which the plant is sensitive are first of all meteorological. In fact the anise is very afraid of winter frosts. Fungal parasites are also able to damage the leaves and destroy the fruits.
During sowing, the addition of phosphorus or potassium to the soil is not recommended as it is anise plant seems to be negatively affected by this presence.
Collection and property
The fruits ripen, and therefore can be harvested, between August and September, depending on the place where they are grown and the weather. Proceed with harvesting by cutting off the plant stems when the maturation is not yet complete, or when the umbels take on a gray-green color and when the seeds are still hard. At this point the umbrellas are exposed to the sun to ensure that they complete their maturation until the seeds come out. These must then be sun-dried and can be stored in boxes or jars with good airtight closure. It is possible to extract the essential oil contained in the fruits, made up of about 80% by anethole, by steam distillation: a process that cannot be carried out at home but requires sophisticated machinery.
Inside there is also a good quantity of minerals: copper, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and manganese. Inside it can also denote the presence of vitamin A and vitamins that are part of group B. Among the various information it is correct to highlight also the caloric intake it provides: for 100 grams of seeds about 340 calories are taken.
There anise plant does not present specific contraindications, except in the case of allergy to phenol. In case of pregnancy or lactation, a prior medical consultation is recommended before taking.