Herb of the Year--Present and Past
2019 Herb of the Year Anise Hyssop
While commonly called anise hyssop, the odor is more similar to French tarragon, though sweeter, with a hint of basil. The foliage and flowers taste similar to the aroma-sweet, with the licorice of tarragon and basil and just a bit floral.
All of the thirty or so Agastache species are good for honey production and make great ornamental perennials. The flowering plants go well with the silver-leaved species of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum), which flower about the same time in the July garden and also provide good bee forage. The young, broad, dark green leaves of A. foeniculum, tinged purple in cool weather, are attractive with spring bulbs such as yellow daffodils.
Agastache species do not have GRAS status, even though the leaves of many species have been used for centuries as a substitute for French tarragon, infused in syrups and cordials, or brewed into tea, and the flowers have been used with fruit, in desserts and confections, and mixed in salads. Both the leaves and flowers make good additions to potpourri.
Agastache foeniculum is most often grown, though A. mexicana, A. rugosa, and A. scrophulariifolia provide similar flavors to French tarragon and basil, though may include plants scented of peppermint or pennyroyal.
Cultivation and propagation
Agastache species need little more than partly shaded to sunny, well-drained, acid- to near-neutral soil. The seeds (actually tiny nuts, or nutlets) are most easily started by broadcasting; established clumps readily reseed themselves, often in tiny nooks and crannies or the middle of the garden path. Seeds may also be sown in the greenhouse, with transplants in six to eight weeks. Clumps generally last two to three years, becoming very woody at the base and eventually dying. Since reseeding is not a problem, anise hyssop will persist in your garden yet never really become weedy; it is easy to move about. The soil should be evenly moist, well-drained, slightly acid, and high in organic matter.
Harvesting and preserving
For tea, harvest leaves early in the day during a sunny, rain-free spell close to when the plants will be flowering. Then dry the leaves and store them in glass jars. Anise hyssop makes an unusual vinegar for salads and a tasty cordial if you like sweet licorice. Our friend puts anise hyssop in his vodka, which he keeps in the freezer, for a preferred libation. Leaves are sometimes candied as a confection for desserts. Blossoms are often harvested fresh as edible flowers for salads, beverages, syrups, and desserts.
2018 Herb of The Year Hops (Humulus lupulus)
The female flower (also called a cone or strobile) of the hops plant, Humulus lupulus, is the part of the plant used to make beer and is responsible for the bitter flavor. • The vine is referred to as a bine, the botanical term for a twining plant stem. • Lupulin is the substance in the cone that contains the oils and resins which give hops their aroma. • The hops plant is a fast-growing vine which can grow over 15-30’ tall in one season and is hardy to zone 5. • Planted as a rhizome, hops prefer a sunny, moist location. It is dioecious, which means that male and female flowers occur on separate plants. • There are many varieties of the hops plant and each has a distinctive flavor. • While the brewing of beer with hops was first recorded in 822 AD, it is believed that beer brewing began thousands of years before that with spices and fruits instead of hops. • Hops flowers can be used in cooking and can infuse flavor into a dish much like a bay leaf, or the flower can be grated and sprinkled on top of a dish. The stalks and leaves are edible too. • In addition to culinary uses, hops are used in sleep pillows as well as fresh and dried flower arrangements. • The bitter resins in the female hops flower are a sedative. This is why both regular and nonalcoholic beer make people drowsy. • Hops historically have also been cultivated to treat anxiety, restlessness and sleeplessness. • The antibacterial characteristics of hops also served as a preservative • Americans have been growing hops since colonial times. Initially production was centered in the Northeast. Today Washington state leads the production in the United States. • Up to two pounds of hops can be harvested per vine.
Past Herbs of the Year
2005 Oregano & Marjoram
2006 Scented Geraniums
2007 Lemon Balm
2009 Bay Laurel
2014 Artemisia ssp. (Wormwood, Tarragon, et al.)
2015 Savory Saturea ssp.
2016 Peppers Capsicum ssp
2017 Coriander/Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)