Each year the International Herb Association selects one herb to celebrate as the Herb of the Year. Selected plants much be outstanding in at least two of the three major categories: culinary, medicinal or decorative. The 2019 Herb of the Year, Anise-Hyssop, scores well in all three categories.
Both the flowers and leaves of Anise-Hyssop are edible. The leaves have a pleasant mild licorice/anise flavor while the flowers add a hint of floral sweetness. Harvested fresh, leaves can be added to summer pasta dishes or cold vegetable soups. Fresh leaves and flowers are also excellent in salads, with fruit, in cold drinks, in jellies, or used as an attractive edible garnish.
When dried, Agastache makes a wonderful licorice/mint tea. To dry:
- Harvest in the morning after dew has dried but before hot sun volatilizes fragrant oils.
- Sunlight destroys flavor so dry in a dark, warm location.
- Hang bunches upside down, bound with rubber band, or dry individual leaves and flowers on drying screens.
Anise-Hyssop has tremendous value as a nectar-rich pollinator plant. While many beneficial pollinators are attracted to its flowers, of note is its appeal to honeybees. Many beekeepers will grow this plant near their hives because honey made by bees that feed on it is exceptionally flavorful.
Tea made from Anise-Hyssop leaves is believed to relieve coughs, clear congestion, ease digestive upset, and promote restful sleep. Historically, a poultice of the leaves was used to treat burns. Modern clinical research has shown that the oils contained in Agastache have antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.