Anise Seed: More Than A Flavoring For Italian Sausage

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Anise got its name in Latin from the Greek term for dill due to being confused with that herb. As a result, all languages that descended from Latin have retained the Latin word for the spice without much alteration.

The anise plant most likely originated in Egypt but may come from the Eastern Mediterranean or Western Asia. Anise was being used in ancient Egypt as early as 1500 BC. Anise was later popular in Rome. Mathematician Pythagoras was one of the spice’s Roman fans and he extolled the virtues of all parts of the plant including the seeds. Both Hippocrates and Dioscorides suggested its use as a cough remedy while most Romans used it primarily as a digestive aid. It was popular for use in spiced wedding cakes. It is thought that this anise-flavored wedding cake was the first wedding cake.

During the middle ages, the cultivation and use of anise seed would spread throughout Europe. It was mostly used for medicinal purposes. It was so highly regarded as a medicine that in the 1800s, Germans began using it to flavor their bread.

It has gradually been replaced in western cooking by star anise, which is an unrelated plant despite sharing its name with anise. Today, anise is cultivated mainly in various parts of Europe as well as in Syria and Morocco.

Anise seed flavor profile

The flavor of anise is one widely associated with that of licorice candy as it is the primary flavor in most of the licorice candy made in North America. Its flavor can also be likened to that of fennel.

Health benefits of anise seed

Anise seed is packed with a variety of major nutrients like:

  • Calcium: Anise seed is a rich source of calcium, which is most widely known for providing bone health benefits. Along with helping to build strong bones, calcium helps your nerves and muscles to function as they should. A 1-tablespoon serving of anise seeds provides 4 percent of your daily calcium requirement.
  • Iron: Iron is another mineral that is important for good health and anise seed contains a lot it as well. Along with being crucial for making hemoglobin, iron is also important for muscle and brain function. You can get as much as 14 percent of your daily iron requirement from 1 tablespoon of anise seeds.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid and its benefits range from helping with the formation of connective tissue to fortifying your immune system and helping with the absorption of iron. From a tablespoon of anise seeds, you get 2 percent of the vitamin C you need each day. That 2 percent is just a fraction of your daily requirement; however, it is still worth mentioning given the small serving size.

You can use anise seed to prevent or manage conditions like:

  • Insomnia and anxiety: Insomnia is associated with a variety of major health issues including asthma and heart disease. Anise seed can be used to help ensure sleep and improve sleep quality. The sedative effects of anise extend to treating anxiety in addition to sleeplessness.
  • Flatulence: Anise seed has long been used as a treatment for gas and the cramping that can come with it. It has been used for this purpose since the era of Ancient Rome.

Common uses of anise seed

Anise is used mainly in sweets including cakes and candy. It is also a common ingredient in savory foods, including soups and dishes that feature root vegetables. Anise seed is best known in the US as the main flavoring in the Italian sausage that shows up on pizza. In addition to its use in food, anise seed is the main flavoring in various traditional liqueurs including Greece’s Ouzo and France’s Pernod.