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(5th November

This graceful, feathery leaved plant is related to the pea (a legume) and is native to the Middle East. It grows to about three feet tall, and has pealike blue flowers, sticky leaves, and seedpods resemble partly grown peapods. They have soft, long flexible taproots which are bright yellow inside.

It was used in Egypt four thousand years ago and Assyrian, Chinese and Indian records indicate its early use as a medicinal. It is mentioned also in the writings of Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Celsus, Scribonius Largus and Pliny, usually in reference to medicinal uses. It has been cultivated in Germany since at least the Thirteenth century, Italy since the Fifteenth century, and in England since at least the Thirteenth century. Europeans have used it for both its medicinal and flavoring properties since the Middle ages.

It is cultivated today mainly in Mediterranean countries, the United States importing most of its supply, although some is grown in Louisiana and California. (There is a wild species that is native to North America).

Flavoring extracts obtained from this plant are used in candy, beverages, baked goods and ice cream. It is also used in shoe polish, beer, tobacco and fire extinguishers. In medicine it has been used to treat peptic ulcers and Addison's disease. In heavy doses it will deplete the body's store of potassium and raise blood pressure. In the U.S. most of its use in confectionary has been replaced with artificial flavors.

Chef James EhlerThis article is from Chef James Ehler of Key West, Florida.

James is a webmaster, cook, chef, writer and (like me) a self-confessed computer nerd. He is the former executive chef of Martha's Steak & Seafood Restaurant and the former Reach Hotel (both in Key West), the Hilton Hotel in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the New Bern Golf and Country Club, North Carolina.

He is now webmaster and cook at the Blue Heaven Restaurant in Key West while he works on his Food Encyclopedia (five years so far). It is well worth paying a visit to James' food reference website which is a useful resource well worth Bookmarking - to visit either website just click on their title:

The Food Reference Website
The Blue Heaven Restaurant, Key West, Florida

If you want to contact James just email him by clicking here.

The answer : Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra and other species

© James T. Ehler, 2001
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