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Anise Hyssop was one of our first perennials to emerge in the Taliesin Garden! This versatile herb is a member of the mint family—and is a delicious alternative to mint and basil. The leaves and flowers are mildly sweet and delicately anise flavored. The flower buds can be dried to use in cookies while the whole leaves make a lovely addition to salads or can be dried for tea.
And the edible plant is increasingly popular with American chefs. Some use the tiny sprout for a pop of sweet anise flavor on pork chops or duck; others infuse the leaves with sugar to make a emerald green sorbet to pair with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a bowl of strawberries.
Inventive ways our Food Artisan Immersion Program has been exploring utilizing Anise Hyssop at the Riverview Terrace Café this year include:
• Chopping leaves into tabouli and other grain salads.
• Adding leaves and flowers as a garnish over melon and feta.
• Combining with a dash of butter to cooked carrots and pea pods.
• Wrapping a leaf around a slice of pear, then another around a slice of prosciutto.
• Stirring chopped leaves into streusel dough (atop a strawberry-rhubarb crisp).
• Incorporating flowers and buds into shortbread cookie dough.
• Offering a leaf after a cup of coffee to freshen breath.
Outdoors on the estate grounds, the nectar rich flowers attract beneficial pollinators and butterflies. Plus the flowering spikes make beautiful bouquets in combination with Queen Anne’s lace and meadow grasses. Starter varietals for your own garden may be obtained at the Dane County Farmers Market or via a local plant nursery. —Written by Odessa Piper, renowned chef, culinary expert and FAIP Program Developer. Read more about her significant impact on the farm-to-table movement at: taliesinpreservation.org/pipers-foodie-legacy/