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HYSSOP

Hyssopus officinalis

Family : Labiatae

Description

Horseradish is a hardy perennial plant of the mustard family. Its hotly pungent, fleshy root is used as a condiment or table relish, mainly in the form of a sauce to enhance seafoods and meats; the root is traditionally considered medicinal. Horseradish has been used in the kitchens of Europe since the Middle Ages.

Distribution

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a garden herb of the mint family whose flowers and evergreen leaves have long been used as a flavouring for foods and beverages and as a folk medicine. The plant has a sweet scent and a warm, bitter taste. The leaves contain oil of hyssop, a volatile oil used by perfumers. A native of the area ranging from southern Europe eastward to Central Asia, hyssop has become naturalized in North America.

Botany

Hyssop is a small perennial evergreen shrub of about 0.5 m (1.5 feet) high with slim, woody quadrangular branching stems. The leaves are narrow, elliptical, fragrant, hairy and dotted with oil-bearing glands. They are of about 2 to 3 cm (0.8 to 1.2 inches) long and less than 1 cm wide, that grow in pairs on the stem. Long, leafy, half-whorled spikes of little flowers (coloured violet-blue, pink, red, or white) blossom from June to September.

Cultivation

Hyssop is cultivated in well-drained, light soil. They are sown in spring and cuttings are taken in early summer. They are planted 20 cm apart for hedging and clip to shape in spring.

Culinary, medicinal and other use

Hyssop is a valuable expectorant. A strong tea made of the leaves and sweetened with honey is a traditional remedy for nose, throat, and lung afflictions and is sometimes applied externally to bruises. Flowering tips infused in water are used to treat coughs and sore throats, also to heal bites, burns and stings. In the European Middle Ages hyssop was a stewing herb; its modern uses are for flavouring meats, fish, vegetables, soups, stews, salads and sweets. Honey made from hyssop pollen is considered especially fine. Distilled oil is used in liqueurs and perfumes.

 

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