A member of the mint family, anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a perennial herb native to the North American prairies. It grows to three feet high in ideal conditions, although I’ve rarely seen it that tall here in central Texas. It sports numerous lavender flower spikes which appear in mid-summer and lasts until the new year.
Perfect for many practices it has been used for centuries as a substitute for French tarragon, infused in syrups and cordials, or brewed into tea, and the flowers have been used with fruit, in desserts and confections, and mixed in salads. Both the leaves and flowers make good additions to potpourri, although I don’t think I would use it for that as its benefits in tea outweigh its look on the shelf. I just love its licorice flavor, during hot summer days I look forward to brewing it into an iced tea or to just adding a few leaves of Anise Hyssop in my water as it makes a refreshing summer tonic too.
For tea, harvest leaves early in the day during a sunny, rain-free spell close to when the plants will be flowering. Then dry the leaves and store them in glass jars. Anise hyssop makes a delightfully unusual vinegar for salads and a tasty cordial if you like sweet licorice. Infused in honey it releases its anise flavor. A good friend of mine puts anise hyssop in his vodka, which he keeps in the freezer, it is his preferred libation for combating hot afternoons. The leaves are sometimes candied as a confection to be sprinkled on desserts like cakes and ice cream. My grandmother would always harvest the blossoms fresh as an edible flower addition to her salads, beverages, syrups, and desserts.
Anise hyssop is relatively low maintenance in the herb garden. Few pests bother it although it may sometimes (but rarely) be attacked by the two-spotted cucumber beetle. I am happy to have this growing in my garden as this is one of my favorite herbs. Anise hyssop, the National Herb Society’s 2019 Herb of the Year can be a truly stunning addition to your landscape - I’m growing it in a dapple shade area paired with some pink cleome. It grows well, without many problems, which is always good. It is often a perennial herb as this member of the mint family self-seeds, another plus in my gardening book. Free plants every year, yes, that works just fine for me!
Even though it spreads via self-seeding, the self-seeders grow nearby to the original plant, not next door in the neighbor’s yard. It is upright in its growth habit and has beautiful dark green, heart shaped leaves. The adorable purple/pink flower spikes show up at the top of every stem. When cut back it easily branches and creates more spiked flowers. It starts to bloom in early August and keep going into the frost time. It can take light frosts. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Divide mature plants every two to three years to ensure healthy growth.