Anise is a wonderful herb to grow in the Southwest winter garden – or even in a container on the patio. The anise plant is lovely to look at, attracts butterflies and other pollinators, and is delightful to use both fresh and dried.
You might have to tolerate a few caterpillars. The swallowtail butterfly mamas lay their eggs on most members of the carrot family, which includes anise, cilantro, parsley, and many more.
The fragrant anise plant has a long history of use. Pictures of it have been found in ancient Babylonian carvings, Egyptian tombs, and Roman ruins. Ancient uses were perhaps medicinal as well as ornamental. We know that by the Middle Ages anise was used in cooking, medicine, and mouse traps.
Native to the dry rocky soils of the eastern Mediterranean, anise does well in our area. Late September to early November is the ideal time to plant seeds. In its homeland, anise grows after the start of their winter rains which is about now, and the only rain they get.
Due to its taproot, and dislike of being transplanted, anise is generally planted from seed and rarely found for sale as seedlings. That said, if do you find seedlings – go ahead and buy some. Much quicker results.
Overall, anise grows much like it’s cousin cilantro that I described how to grow last month – here.
Plant anise in well-drained (sandy) soil. If you have a garden bed, fine but otherwise a pot over a foot deep is just fine. Regular potting soil is good, and cactus potting soil is even better.
Many herbs don’t mind some drying, which is why rosemary is found in area landscapes. Anise can take some drying too, but keep plants evenly moist for the best flavor and highest seed production.
Plants require at least six hours of winter sun each day, which makes them fine at the dege of the patio.
While fertilizer is not necessary, if you desire ample seeds for cooking, use a flowering fertilizer, high in phosphorous. High phosphorous fertilizer helps produce an ample seed crop, and ample flowers for the pollinators.
Harvesting and Use
Use anise leaves fresh in salads or as a flavoring in cooking.
Leaves are tasty either fresh or dried for tea. Leaves also taste good in a green salad.
Use seeds in cooking. Use kitchen colander or strainer to winnow them.
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Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening” (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy there I get a few pennies. Better yet, buy local – my books are at Antigone, Mostly Books, and local botanical gardens.
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