Ah…spring(ish) cleaning. Isn’t it funny how after Christmas, we’re programmed to reorganize and tidy our living spaces? I don’t really subscribe to all the post-Christmas scrubbing hype – I have a somewhat flexible philosophy regarding cleaning. For me, it’s more of a year-’round endeavour: it’s perfectly acceptable if spring cleaning lasts until autumn. And ditto for fall cleaning: it can go all the way through until spring, no problem. ;) But I was recently hit with the urgent need to reorganize the freezer, when an innocent opening of the door led to an avalanche of tubs and bags containing everything from homemade soup to whole wheat flour and assorted veggies and berries. After I stopped making grumpy annoyed noises, I picked it all up off the floor and stuffed it back into the freezer for next time. (What’s the definition of insanity, again?). But I kept back one particular item – a package of anise hyssop, which I had harvested from my garden plot way back in September.
This was my first year growing anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). A member of the mint family Lamiaceae (it’s commonly called licorice mint), anise hyssop is a perennial in warmer climes. Here in Calgary, it’s a bit too cold for anise hyssop to successfully overwinter, though if you have a suitable microclimate, you may have a chance. Plants may also reseed themselves if we’re lucky. Anise hyssop is a really pretty plant, with deep green needle-like leaves on woody stems (vaguely reminiscent of rosemary) and delicate blue-purple flowers in late summer. The flowers are serious bee and butterfly attractants, and deer hate the scent of the leaves – how great is that combination of features? I grew my plants from seed and they were really slow to germinate, taking almost a month from the time of sowing. We had a really hot, dry summer, which isn’t ideal for anise hyssop – I ought to have been a bit more dedicated with the watering. Finally, I don’t believe I provided enough nutrition in the way of compost amendments, something anise hyssop requires. My neglect combined with a short growing season and wacky weather made for tiny, stunted plants. Despite all of this, I was still able to harvest a fair amount of leaves and flowers. I dried some, and froze the rest.
A small cache of fresh Meyer lemons in the fridge and the need for a break from all this exhausting springish cleaning (who am I kidding?) inspired this lovely tisane, perfect for a late afternoon pick-me-up:
Anise Hyssop-Lemon-Honey Tisane
Juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon (I am a HUGE fan of lemon-flavoured anything, so I used more lemon juice than you might. Adjust according to your taste)
Several sprigs of fresh or frozen anise hyssop leaves and flowers, washed and removed from stems, enough to fill 1/4 of a tea cup or mug (if you’re using dried hyssop, cut the amount by half)
Organic honey, to taste
Combine everything in your favourite tea cup or mug and fill the rest of the cup with boiling water. If you don’t like herb leaves and flowers floating in your drink, then bundle them all into a square of cheesecloth or place in a tea strainer. Let steep for at least five minutes, then add honey. Anise hyssop has a pleasant licorice taste that goes really well with the lemon. Enjoy!
Have you ever grown anise hyssop? Do you use it in cooking, baking, or for tea?