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Hyssop.

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A tasty fairly strong anti-inflammatory.

The mint family (Lamiaceae, Labiatae) is loaded with simple anti-inflammatories. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is one of them. I quite like it, and give it in lung troubles, gut upset, cystitis, the common cold, and similar - if I have any left, that is. It's tasty, too, especially when dried, so I usually run out sometime around mid-winter.

It's pretty much a specific for singer's throat.

I use the flowering tops, and cut them just above the brown woody part. There's lots of bumblebees in large hyssop bushes, and therefore also in your armfuls of hyssop, but they're no problem: they don't sting, and just wander about the house, looking for an open window, after they are freed from the masses of flowers.

Bundle your branches (5-15 stems to a bundle) and hang them up to dry. Your herb is dry when the thickest stalks don't bend anymore but snap. Then, you can either use gloves and pull everything off the stalks (with the grain is easiest), or use comfy sharp scissors and snip everything into 2-3 cm bits. You get lots more if you just snip, but you're in for sore finger muscles if you do, or at least, I am, cos I pick lots. The green stems of hyssop are prefectly useful (and thus a waste to throw away), but I haven't tried the woody brown ones.

Hyssop is a short-lived perennial, a garden plant. It's entirely possible that I've known where hyssop is from, but if so I've managed to forget that bit. Hyssop self-seeds profusely. It takes a few years, and lots of room, for a tiny seedling to become a full-sized hyssop, 1 m across and about half a meter high; and once it reaches that size it doesn't survive all that many winters. Don't pull up every hyssop seedling you see, is what I'm saying.

The hares take care of spring cuttings, in winter. If they don't you'll have to do that yourself: just snip everything away, down to the roots, preferably before they sprout leaves. Uncut hyssops get really untidy, with branches haring (hah!) off in all directions. Not at all like the tidy half-globe you've grown used to.

Hyssop is not anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). Anise hyssop tastes of anise (of course), and as I can't stand the taste of anise I've banned it from my garden. If I were to find the Agastache that tastes of candy I'd grow that, but alas, most of them don't suit me, at all.

Hyssop comes in three flower colors. The blue one is most winterhardy, the white and pink rather less so, and I forget which of those dies faster; I think I currently have a white or two and lots of blues, but no pinks, so I'll declare the pink to be least winterhardy of the three. Possibly.

Fresh hyssop tastes different from dry: the dry gets a lemony tinge to it. Fresh hyssop is very nice in my bread spread mixes; it's also a good culinary herb for meats.

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Related entry: YAMFAIs



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