The Herb Society of Central Indiana wants to you to “Get Your Herb On.” That’s the theme of this year’s Spring Symposium, which features the 2019 Herb of the Year, anise hyssop.

I’d be willing to bet a lot of people out there aren’t familiar with anise hyssop. It’s not something you run across in the average spice rack.

Just to be clear, anise hyssop isn’t the spice, anise, that’s used in cookies like the German Pfeffernüsse or in liqueurs like absinthe. Nor is it the plant that produces the star anise found in Chinese cooking and potpourris. It also isn’t the small evergreen shrub known as just plain “hyssop,” although both plants are members of the mint family.

Confused yet? I don’t blame you. All that duplication of names may be why anise hyssop is often called Agastache, from the plant’s Latin name, “Agastache foeniculum.” It’s also known as blue giant hyssop, fragrant giant hyssop or lavender giant hyssop.

Medicinally, Native Americans used anise hyssop to treat coughs, fevers, wounds and diarrhea.

Described as having a sweet, licorice-mint scent, it gives cookies, candy, tea, and cordials a licorice flavor, and the edible flowers make an interesting addition to salads.

I’m not fond of licorice myself, but I’ve raised a few different kinds of anise hyssop nevertheless because it’s a terrific pollinator plant. Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees just love it.

Kim Porter, who owned the wonderful Garden Thyme at the Old Schoolhouse, passed along a couple of recipes for anise hyssop that came from Renee Shepherd of Renee’s Garden seed company. 

Sunny Days Tea
-1 part dried anise hyssop blossoms and leaves
-1 part dried lemon verbena leaves (or other lemon herb)
-2 parts dried calendula petals

Mix together and use 1 teaspoon per cup of boiling water. Pour the water over the herbs. Cover and let steep for two to three minutes. Strain and serve. (If using fresh herbs, use 1 tablespoon of the mixture per cup of boiling water.)

Unfortunately, the recipe for Peach Coffeecake With Anise Hyssop was too long for this column, but if you attend this year’s Symposium you’ll have a chance to try it. Kim said it was such a big hit with the society’s members, it will be served as a breakfast snack at the event. (You can also check the society’s website for that, and other, herbal recipes.)

The Symposium, which will be held on Saturday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds, offers some really outstanding speakers.

Author and herbal expert, Carolee Snyder, former owner of Carolee’s Herb Farm near Hartford City, will discuss anise hyssop. (Sadly, Carolee’s Herb Farm closed a few years ago.)

Lauren Manning, co-owner of Stream Cliff Herb Farm near Commiskey, Indiana, will offer hints on using herbs to design an edible landscape.

Susan Vanderlip, an author, photographer, yoga instructor and “Monarch Butterfly Citizen Scientist,” will speak on Monarch butterflies and herbs, and on yoga for gardeners.

The founder of Nelson’s Tea and HoiTea ToiTea Café, Alexandra Harris, will talk about tea.

The final presentation of the day will be “Understanding Hemp CBD,” with the owner of Georgetown Market, Rick Montieth, and holistic practitioner Ali Schaffer. 

As usual, Symposium attendees will also be able to buy live plants and herb-related items, pick up freebies and participate in a silent auction. A lunch, catered by the Juniper Spoon, is included in the $50 registration fee ($45 for members.)

You can register for the event by mail, or online at the society’s website, www.herbsocietyofcentralindiana.org. The deadline to register is April 8. For more information, see the website, or call 317-251-6986.

- Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com