Liquorice

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Glycyrrhiza glabra

History

Liquorice is a deciduous, perennial shrub in the legume family (Fabaceae) It is thought to originate from Asia.  The roots and stolons were used by both the ancient Greeks and Romans.  It is now grown commercially in Spain, France, Russia, Germany, England, Asia, and the Middle east.  In the early 16th century liquorice began to be cultivated in the monastery gardens at Pontefract, in England, and this became the centre of the liquorice confectionery industry.  The sweetness of liquorice is derived from a compound called glycyrrhizin, reputed to be 50 times sweeter than refined sugar.

Liquorice is one of the most prescribed herbs in Chinese medicine.

Growing

Seeds need to be scarified or stratified

Germination and early growth can be slow and erratic.  Once established cuttings can be taken from stolons. (30cm long cuttings planted vertically)

30cm between plants in rows 60cm apart.  slow growing in first 2 years only getting to about 50cm high.

Harvest – dig carefully along row to expose roots at the sides of the plant.  Lift whole plant, wash roots and cut into lengths ready for drying.  Save some for cuttings. Harvest in 3rd or 4th year.

Fun Facts

Napoleon used to chew Liquorice so much that it blackened his teeth.

Uses

Twigs can then be cut up and boiled until sticky black extract is obtained.

Add molasses or aniseed to make sweets.

Tea – a few sticks finely chopped steeped in boiling water.  1 1/2 teaspoons per cup.

Medicinally used for its anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral benefits.