Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is an annual
culinary herb belonging to ajwain or celery family. Its fruit, known as
aniseed, is one of the oldest spices. The seed is ground-grey to
grayish-brown in color, oval in shape and 3.2 to 4.8 mm in length. It
has an agreeable odor and a pleasant taste. The anise plant grows up to
a height of 75 cms. It requires sunshine and warmth and does not grow
satisfactorily in the tropical lowlands.
Anise is a native of the Middle East. It was
cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, who valued its medicinal properties
and culinary uses. It was also known to the early Greeks and Romans.
It contains moisture, substantial amount of
protein, fatty oil and crude fiber besides essential oil, sugars, starch
and ash. It also contains choline.
Anise oil is a colorless or pale-yellow
liquid, with the characteristic odor and taste of the fruit. This oil
has now replaced the fruits for medicinal and flavoring purposes. The
chief constituent of anise oil is anethole which is present in large
quantity and is mainly responsible for the characteristic flavor of the
oil. The oil also contains methyl, chavicol, p-methoxyphenyl acetone and
small amounts of terpenes and sulphur compounds of disagreeable odor.