Aniseed is the fruit of the flowering plant Pimpinella anisum or known as Anise. Aniseed originates from the East Mediterranean basin. Today it can be found in the temperate climate zone. The Aniseed plant was cultivated originally for its medicinal properties in Ancient Egypt and in the Middle-East. Surprisingly, it belongs to the same family as Parsley and Carrot! Its a small seed that looks much like Caraway or Cumin.
Despite the similarities in their name and flavor, anise and star anise are two very different spices. Sometimes they can be used interchangeably. Mind that Star Anise has stronger flavor and its aroma can be overwhelming! Whereas Aniseed is used mainly in the Western cuisine, Star Anise is native to Asia, and therefore the traditional choice in Asian cuisine. Lately Star Anise has become popular in Europe as a cheaper substitute to True Aniseeds. This is especially true in the liquor making industry.
Culinary uses of Aniseeds
The flavor of the Aniseeds, as many other herb seeds, is heightened after dry-frying. Aniseed carries a sweet, liquorice-meets-cardamom type flavour, which is why it’s so popular for production of liquors and sweet dishes. This intense natural sweetness comes from Aniseed’s essential oil: Anethole. This essential oil is also the same one that is found in Star Anise!
In Eastern Europe, Aniseed flavors many bread and cakes recipes. It gives unique and refreshing aroma to some cookies, candies and also candles.
Many famous recipes for sweet bread such as the old-fashioned French pain d’epice and the Italian Ester bread, both make use of Aniseeds.
As mentioned earlier, Aniseed is very popular in production of traditional spirits all across Europe. Like Anisette, Pastis and Absinthe in France, Ouzo in Greece, Mastika in Bulgaria, Italin Sambuca etc. all rely upon Aniseed for flavour.
During the summer harvest, the fresh flower of the aniseed plant is chopped and served freshly to add aroma to some salads and soups.
For centuries Anise has been regarded as a medicine.
In folk medicine, Aniseeds are used mainly for their carminative properties; used for treating menstrual cramps, bronchitis, flatulence, indigestion, bloating, stomach pains and nausea. Even nowadays Aniseeed water is the first herbal infusion given to a newborn babies to fight colic, behind which people believe are intestinal causes. These herbal remedies are now finally being researched individually by modern science.
Aniseed contains some of the B-complex vitamins(B6,B3,B2,B1) and is a source of Calcium, Iron and Copper. The seeds contain good amount of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
Aniseed’s volatile oil consist of about 80-90% Anethole. Beyond just Aniseed, Anethole occurs in many other plants, which is why a similar aroma is present in Star Aniseeds, and also Fennel and Liquorice. Currently, Anethole is under investigation for tissue diseases and skin aging protective properties against hydrogen peroxide-induced toxicity and collagen metabolism changes in human skin.
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Aqueous suspension of anise “Pimpinella anisum” protects rats against chemically induced gastric ulcers
Herbal remedies for dyspepsia…
United States Department of Agriculture