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.
2019 Herb of the Year — Anise Hyssop
(article by Shirley Mah Kooyman)
The 2019 Herb of the Year was selected by the International Herb Association (IHA) to be Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) which is also known as Giant Hyssop and Blue Giant Hyssop. It is native to the Great Plains of USA and is found in prairies. This member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae or Labiatae) is a hardy perennial that grows 3-4 ft. tall, blooming July-August, drought tolerant, and not favored by deer. Its lavender flowers attract many pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and moths.
This native MN plant was long used medicinally to treat coughs, fevers, wounds, and diarrhea because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s often used in teas and potpourri for its licorice-mint flavor.
Anise hyssop thrives in full sun or in part shade (shade in the morning and sun in the afternoon). This low maintenance perennial grows easily from seeds or divisions. It self-seeds heavily but can be easily weeded out. Of special note there is also a cultivar available in the nursery trade called Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’ which has chartreuse leaves. It was An All American Selections Award Winner in 2003. It is not as vigorous as the native due to having less chlorophyll.