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Anise

Anise or aniseed, which has the scientific name Pimpinella anisum, is an herb that comes from the family Apiaceae, or carrot family. This herb is most well known for its aromatic seeds. The taste of the seeds resembles that of fennel, which comes from the same family; or licorice, which comes from a different plant family. Aniseed oil is often used to enhance the flavor of licorice candy.

History

This plant might have originated in Asia, but it has since spread to Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and North America. Ancient Egyptians and Romans used it as a spice. It also has been used throughout history for medicinal purposes and for its fragrance.

Description

Like the other members of its family, anise is a tall plant with feathery green leaflets. It grows to a height of 1.5 to 4 feet (46 to 122 cm). The flowers are white, and the fruit, which looks like ribbed seeds and is often referred to as seed, is grey-green or greenish-brown when ripe.

 

Food and other uses

The stem of this plant, which has the same characteristic flavor as the seeds, can be eaten as a vegetable. The seeds are often used in cookies as well as in bread and sausage. They also are used as seasoning in curry and hoisin. This plant's oil is used in several liqueurs, including anisette and ouzo, as well as in the liquor absinthe. The oil also is used in toothpaste, chewing gum, cough syrup and soap, among other products.

This plant's seeds can be used to prepare a tisane or herbal tea, which has been recommended as a lactation aid. There are some commercially available teas that includeanise extract with other components. There might be a possibility of a toxic reaction to anisein newborns, however, so mothers who are breastfeeding their babies should check with their pediatricians before consuming this type of tea.

Greek Oregano

Oregano means “mountain joy” and is a wonderfully aromatic, flavorful herb popularly used in Spanish and Mediterranean cooking. Oregano also goes by the name marjoram (though it is not to be confused with sweet marjoram). Oregano adds depth and savor to any dish, but goes particularly well with tomatoes, eggplant, and any meat. Sprinkle some in your scrambled eggs or salad dressings, too.

Did you know that oregano has anti-bacterial properties? You can find oregano oil in many specialty and health food shops for this very reason. Oregano contains thymol and carvacrol, two oils which have remarkable bacteria-fighting power. In fact, researchers recently discovered that oregano is a better treatment for giardia than the prescription drug commonly prescribed to treat the illness.

Antioxidants, Too

Thymol and an acid called rosmarinic are potent antioxidants that oregano offers. Ready for a surprise? Research shows that “…On a per gram fresh weight basis, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.”

 

Minerals

Oregano is high in iron, manganese, and other important minerals for health. It’s one of the healthiest and tastiest herbs you can try, so if you haven’t stopped reading yet to run out and buy some, scoot!

Mountain Tea


Greek Mountain Tea is made using the dried leaves and flowers of Sideritis plants (ironwort). The tea is aptly named: the plant used to make it is found on rocky slopes at elevations over 3,200 feet (1000 meters). These plants are hardy flowering perennials that have adapted to survive with little water and little soil. Only one type of this plant, Sideritis raeseri, is cultivated - and only in Greece; otherwise, this and other types are gathered in the wild.

On Crete, the common name for Mountain Tea is "malotira" (μαλοτήρα - pronounced mah-loh-TEER-rah), and almost every region of Greece has its own name for the brew, such as "Olympos tea," and "Parnassos tea," reflecting the name of the mountain where it grows. The most common English name other than Mountain Tea is "Shepherd's Tea," because Greek shepherds would use the plants to make a brewed tea while tending their flocks high in the hills.

Mountain Tea is enormously popular in Greece, and used most often in winter when levels of physical activity decrease and colds, aches, and pains increase. It is said to have a positive effect on almost anything that ails but, most notably, it is used for colds, respiratory problems, digestion, the immune system, mild anxiety, and as an anti-oxidant. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce fever.

Parsley

 

Wonderfully nutritious parsley is a popular culinary as well as medicinal herb, which is recognized as one of the functional food for its unique anti-oxidants and disease preventing properties. This biennial herb is native to the Mediterranean region; and belongs to the family of apiaceae of the genus; Petroselinum, and is known botanically as Petroselinum crispum.

The herb is a small plant with dark green leaves that resemble coriander leaves, in flat leaf variety, however, has a milder flavor than coriander. It is particularly widely used in Mediterranean, East European, and American cuisine.