The 2019 I.H.A. Herb of the Year
Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
2019 Herb of the Year
Anise Hyssop is a short-lived perennial native to Minnesota, nearby states, as well as southern Canada. It grows in well drained soils in full sun to light shade. The mature plant is 3 to 4 feet tall topped by 2 or 3 inches of purple flowers. A member of the mint family, anise hyssop has square stems and opposite leaves. The strong fragrance of hyssop (sweet licorice) leads to its appeal as an herbal tea. Anise hyssop flowers are frequented by pollinators as well as being attractive in the perennial garden. While plants last only 4 or 5 years, they seed freely and are easy to transplant so there will always be seedlings to plant.
Anise hyssop is noted among plants used by the Great Lakes Ojibwe for tea, as a sweetener, or to soothe upper respiratory ills. It has been regarded as a substitute for French tarragon with its similar fragrance and flavor. Infusions of anise hyssop in vinegar or vodka are ways to capture the sweet flavor and aroma. The flowers are edible along with the leaves and can be used to decorate and flavor fruit salads. To harvest leaves for drying, cut them shortly before the plant starts to bloom. Kept tightly sealed the dried leaves should last a year.