Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Liquorice root comes from the perennial liquorice shrub which is native to Europe and Asia.
Liquorice has a bitter-sweet, anise-like, earthy flavour with a bitter, salty aftertaste.
Once cut, liquorice root has a sweet, warm, somewhat medicinal aroma.
Liquorice is often used in Moroccan and Asian cuisines and is most commonly known for its inclusion along with sugar, water, gum and flour in liquorice lollies. Liquorice is also in Irish Guinness and Italian Sambuca. Liquorice pairs well with octopus, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel, ginger and star anise.
Liquorice seeds are best planted as seeds or by root division in spring or summer and grown in well-drained soil. Plants grow to 1m in height and have blue pea-like flowers. Roots can be harvested three to five years after planting. The roots are then cleaned, pulped, boiled, ground or extracted by evaporation.
Liquorice has been cultivated in China for over 2000 years and over 1000 years in Europe. In ancient Egypt liquorice water was a popular sweet drink and Roman soldiers were said to go 10 days without eating and drinking as liquorice built stamina and energy. In 1305, King Edward I placed a duty on liquorice sales which went to help finance the repair of London Bridge.
The rejuvenating and nutritive properties have made it one of the most universally consumed herbal medicines. It is still used medicinally as a cough repressant, an expectorant and a gentle laxative. Liquorice is often used in medicines to disguise other unpalatable flavours.
Facts about Liquorice
In Asia, dried liquorice roots are popular for chewing….they are bitter at first but then become sweeter.
The most famous liquorice treats, liquorice allsorts, were said to have come about when a sales representative dropped a tray of samples he was showing a client, mixing up the various sweets. Despite the salesman scrambling to re-arrange the treats, the client loved the new colourful mix leading to the striped treats we know today.
In many liquorice confectionary products there is actually very little licquorice in it, they add that signature flavour by including aniseed oil.
How do I keep dried liquorice roots?
You can sometimes buy dried liquorice roots from specialty spice manufacturers. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place and slice or grind when needed.