Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

anise (or aniseed) the plant Pimpinella anisum and especially its seed. A native of the Levant, it was known to the Greeks by the 4th century bc. Culinary use extends at least as far back as classical Rome, for Pliny wrote of the seed: ‘Be it green or dried it is wanted for all conserves and flavourings.’ It is now grown in warm climates all over the world but especially in SE Europe, N. Africa, and India.

The plant, especially the seeds, has a sweet and unmistakable taste. Anethole, the principal essential oil in the seeds, is what gives the flavour to drinks such as the French pastis, ouzo in Greece, and arak in Turkey; and this use has been dominant in modern times. ‘On the Aegean coast [of Turkey] a familar winter sight, in February, is the loading of bags of anise on board Turkish ships bound for overseas ports, a particularly aromatic undertaking’ (Kalças, 1974).