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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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hyssop Hyssopus officinalis, originally from Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, is a small shrub which has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes since pre-Christian times. The plant has woody stems, whorls of lance-shaped leaves, and long dense spikes of tubular-shaped light blue, purple, pink, or white flowers from which bees make wonderful honey.

The flavour of the leaves is similar to thyme, and they can be eaten, fresh, with meat, fish, in salads (as can the young shoots), in soups, stews, and in fruit dishes; or ground up as an ingredient in stuffings, pies, and sausages. Hyssop aids the digestion of fat and so makes a particularly good accompaniment to greasy meat dishes. The aromatic qualities of hyssop show to good advantage if a syrup is made using water in which sprigs of hyssop have been boiled and if this syrup is then poured over slices of fresh fruit or used in a fruit salad; Pamela Michael (1980) points out that the combination is particularly effective with plums, apricots, or peaches.