Although it is not a hyssop, the leaves and flowers of this native wildflower of North America do smell and taste like anise. Its botanical name Agastache comes from the Greek agan and stachys, translating as “many ears of wheat,” which refers to the appearance of its numerous tiny lavender-blue flower spikes. Anise hyssop was used by Native Americans as a tea, a sweetener and as a cough medicine. A garden mainstay since the 19th century, it attracts a bevy of creatures including hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees and honey bees plus its tiny black seeds, or nutlets, provide winter food for the birds.
Hardy to zones 4 to 9 as a short-lived perennial, native anise hyssop is found mostly in moist, open woods, along streams and in prairies and self-sows prolifically. Easy to propagate from seed, cuttings and root divisions, anise hyssop is also easy to transplant. The seeds can be planted in fall, allowed to lie dormant through the winter, to germinate in the early spring. It likes full sun and well drained soil where this fragrant ornamental makes a dense, leafy back of the border accent. You must harvest all the blooms to prevent self-seeding, but the flowers spikes make a lovely long lasting cut flower for summer bouquets and retain their fragrance and color when dried for winter arrangements or potpourri. Harvest the blooms in the morning and just as they are opening for the most taste and aroma.
The delightful licorice-mint taste of its leaves and flowers make anise hyssop a favorite of chefs. Its fresh flowers may be added to fruit salads, pork marinates, sweet potatoes and Chinese-style dishes plus they make attractive plate garnishes. The tender leaves can be added to mixed greens and chopped for additions to cookies, cakes or bread recipes. Try steeping the leaves in the milk used to make ice cream. The fresh or dried leaves also make a refreshing cup of tea either alone or blended with other fragrant herbs. Anise hyssop is cultivated in the U.S. as a honey plant, since its nectar yields an excellent light-colored honey. It is also grown as an essential oil plant and the oils are used both in perfumes and aromatherapy.
Anise hyssop is a perfect selection
for gardens vulnerable to
rabbits and deer
because of its strong aroma
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."