Giant Anise variety?

blueberrier1February 8, 2013

At a local 'seed library' I took out a packet of anise (not fennel), that the grower said has always grown eight feet tall in her raised bed. It self seeds...though very wind intolerant here in central KY.She had purchased her original plant three years ago from a local garden center.

Has anyone else raised this variety? Name, please. Have raised fennel in the past, but prefer anise for biscotti.

All my herb books and research claim anise grows three feet tall max. Grower is organic gardener and applied no amenities.

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

8 feet? Sounds more like angelica or lovage in height - they also have umbrella-like blooms as well. Do you have any pictures of the original plant?


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:53AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

My bronze fennel grows about five feet tall and is a perennial that self-sows. I eat the young foliage with salads in early spring and harvest seeds in the early fall.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:08AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

You could eat a couple of the seeds to see if it really is anise, as long as you are sure the grower is right that it is an edible plant. Lovage or angelica seeds will not taste like anise.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 1:31PM
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Don't eat the seeds until you know what genus/species of Anise you have. Not all plants commonly referred to as Anise are edible.

The herb Anise, or Pimpinella anisum (and perhaps other species of Pimpinella), is what most people grow to obtain the Anise spice. It is an annual and typically gets between 2' to 4' tall.

There is, however, another "Anise" grown for culinary purposes, and that is Star Anise, or Illicium verum. Another species of Star Anise, Japanese Star Anise, aka Illicium anisatum, is extremely toxic. Other species of Illicium genus, including, but not limited to, I. floridanum and I. parviflorum, are toxic as well. Illiciums are shrubs and can reach between 10-15' in height, unlike the Pimpinella Anise.

To confuse things further, there is yet eanother plant in the Apiaceae family commonly called Aniseroot, or Osmorhiza longistylis villicaulis. The family also includes Osmorhiza claytonii, or Sweet Cicily, but it is the root of the plant, O. longistylis villicaulis, that is sometimes used as a substitute for black licorice because the flavor is stronger than that of O. claytonii.

Simply put, Anise (Pimpinella) is an herb, while Star Anise (Illicium verum) is a spice. If you want to flavor Biscotti, I think that the seeds of Star Anise are most commonly used for that purpose, rather than the herb Pimpinella.

So, if you have Illicium verum that is appropriate for your Biscotti intentions, and this shrub will grow taller than the herbaceous plants of Pimpinella.

There is another plant called Giant Fennel, Ferula communis, but I don't find anything on it that suggests it is used as an herb or spice.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 6:54PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Seeds of the star anise would be obvious, they are round, woody looking, and much larger than the herb anise (Pimpinella anisum). In short, they do look like tree seeds. The OP would be able to rule out such seeds by looking at the seeds they have.

Sweet cicely could be a possibility but I would suspect that sweet cicely would not be extremely happy in a sunny (assumption here) raised bed - as would be required for the plant to get 8' tall. They tend to like shady, cool, and moist locations. If I recall sweet cicely seeds correctly, they are black and much longer than anise seeds.

Though I do agree, eating unknown plant material of any kind isn't the wisest course of action. Perhaps a picture of the seeds may help to narrow down the possibilities. Can you post one?


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 8:23AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Hi suzannlynne48 - I knew I was probably going to get a ticking off for suggesting a taste test! That's why I mentioned being sure the grower confirms it is an edible. And only a couple of seeds.

Regarding the biscotti question, since it is originally an Italian recipe and Anise is native to the Med and was known to the Romans, whilst Star Anise originates in the Far East, I would have thought that aniseed was the more likely traditional flavouring.

I also rather doubt that Star Anise would be self sowing in Kentucky as the OP mentions. The self sowing points to a member of the Apiaceae being a much more likely candidate. A picture would certainly help.

Giant Fennel is a possibility. I see that Chiltern Seeds lists it as Giant Anise Fennel - just for confusion. PFAF seems to think it may be edible but there is a good deal of disagreement about that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Giant Fennel

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:14AM
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Yes and Horizon Herbs sells this as well. Funny, I just started the seed of it yesterday!

Here is a link that might be useful: Giant Anise Fennel

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:45AM
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Thanks to all of you for alerting me to safety! Since the aroma of the seeds is definitely similar to the anise I buy for biscotti (most definitely NOT star anise), I had not even thought of the seeds as possibily inedible. The woman who sold the original plant will not reopen her shop for several weeks, so I can get no info from her til then. This plant has white flowers and the seed heads are hemishpheric in shape with the seeds upward. These seeds are just a bit darker than the 'Frontier' seeds I buy. I will follow up with what I learn.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:19PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

If the flowers are definitely white it doesn't sound like Ferula communis after all. That has yellow flowers in almost spherical umbels. Intrigued to know what it turns out to be.

One white umbelifer which matches the 8 foot, white flower description is Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzanium. It is an introduced invasive alien in the UK. It self sows with abandon and can cause very nasty skin reactions. You would absolutely not want to eat it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Giant Hogweed

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:54AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Picture of the seeds? It may help the ID.

Giant Hogweed is an invasive here too. If I recall, hogweed is a close relative of the parsnip and the seeds of it look similar to parsnip seeds - if you know what they look like. Either way, I'm sure you can google pics to compare.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:46AM
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The 'seed librarian' related that another organic herb TX friend raised this seed last year and reports it is a fennel variety, albeit, not the 'common' one. The original seller of the plant said she had planted various herbs from Richter's (Canada?) and was unsure of anise vs fennel.

Am looking forward to raising this 'fennel' seed and will raise seeds from my Frontier anise stash as well.Then will dry and grind and taste test them side by side.

Thanks for all the input!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 12:05PM
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