By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
Growing up as a child, my mother made most of the holiday treats.
Fudge, chocolate chip cookies and fruitcake were her specialties.
My favorite treat to make was gingerbread.
While my mother and I were busy in the kitchen, my dad would sit back and wait until the tornado of culinary delights were cleared.
Once that had occurred, he would make his famous anise cookies.
What made these cookies so special was the fact that my dad and I had raised the anise and harvested the seed together. While many cookie recipes require anise oil, my dad’s family recipe deemed anise seed.
This herb is not a difficult one to grow and fits perfectly in the herb garden. Anise is an annual herb that has quit a mature size. It can reach 18 to 24 inches in height and 12 inches wide. This plant can look delicate but do not let that deceive you. It has a woody type of root that holds branching stems. At the end of these stems, fragile white flowers can abound during the months of July and August.
Anise does not do well as a transplant but does well as a directly seeded plant. In the spring, prepare the soil and seed anise every 2.5 to 3 feet apart. Cover with ½ inch of soil. Water in and wait.
The delicate nature of this plant requires some type of protection from wind and lots of sunlight.
After the plant has bloomed, it is time to begin the seed harvesting. There are a couple of techniques that can be used for this process. The first one is the technique that my dad and I have used for years. It is also the same technique that we use to harvest sunflower seeds.
To begin this process, one will need to cut the stems of the anise after the seed heads have turned brown. Place the seed heads in a paper bag and hang up in an area that receives sunlight. The solar radiation will help to dry up the seed pods.
The second approach consists of cutting the stems of the plant as above and then laying the stems on a screen. The screen is then placed in direct sun where the seed pods can completely dry.
Once the seeds have dried, rub the seeds between the fingers to remove the seed pod from the stem. Place dried seed in a sealable container.
Now you are ready to bake up a batch of anise cookies utilizing your own anise seed.
So until we blog again, may your season be filled with culinary delights and garden treasures.