Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Madame Beespeaker Anise Hyssop Project

Agastache foeniculum at UBC Farm

 As an advocate for Vancouver's pollinators, I would like to encourage you to plant Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) in your balcony pots, back yard, school or community garden. It is a perennial herb in the mint family with edible purple flowers tasting of sweet licorice, which is why is is often called "Licorice Mint". The leaves can be used fresh or dried to make a delicious calming tisane. Anise hyssop syrup is popular in desserts and cocktails. It has a flavor and scent profile that has been compared to root beer.

Sometimes called the "Honey Wonder Plant," one acre of anise hyssop can support up to 100 honeybee hives. The flowers also attract bumblebees and butterflies. I have grown it in full sun, partial shade and even in small planter boxes. The flower heads dry nicely and retain some of their mauve tinge. You can plant the tiny seeds in the spring or late September, and they germinate best sown close to the surface, barely covered with soil. Anise hyssop can bloom from June through September and if it is planted near your Brassicas, it repels cabbage moths. Agastache foeniculum is native to parts of B.C., Alta., and Sask.

When you grow Anise Hyssop, I encourage you to save the seeds, divide plantings and in turn, pass them on to other gardeners so we can get our city blooming! Large quantities of seed can be bought at Richter's, a Canadian herb company.

Madame Beespeaker's Spring Tonic Licorice Mint Tea
Makes 1 pot
2 tbs dried raspberry leaf
1 tbs dried anise hyssop leaves and dried flowers
1 tbs dried wild bergamot leaves and flowers
1 tbs dried nettles
1 tsp dried elderberries
Pour boiling water over the leaves and let steep for 5 minutes.
This is a calming, balancing, cleansing and healing tea. The elderberry will help your immune system. The anise hyssop is good for your throat and digestion. You could add green black or rooibus tea for more body. Experiment and make it to your own taste. As with any herbal tea, it is medicinal--check with your doctor if you have a medical condition or are currently taking medication before drinking herbal teas.

A native bee naps on the leaf of an anise hyssop plant at UBC Farm

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