Table of content A-Z

 

Hyssop

 

Botanical name: Hyssopus officinalis


Ysop ohne Blüten

 

Hyssop is at home in the Mediterranean area, the Near East and west-central Asia. It was known in ancient times as a remedy and a spice plant and is mentioned in the Bible. In the 12th century the herb reached Central Europe with travelling monks.

 

Among the chief suppliers are Italy, France, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The USA, India, Bulgaria and Germany also grow large amounts of hyssop.

 

Availability

Hyssop is harvested twice a year for commercial purposes: in June and in September. Fresh leaves or shoots are found only sporadically during this period at local markets, while dried goods are available all year. The herb is sold with blossoms, the crushed leaves and dried twig tips.

 

In domestic herb gardens the fresh leaves and shoots can be picked during the entire vegetation period. The plant grows particularly well in sunny locations and in chalky, dry soils.

 

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Hyssop is a perennial subshrub with woody shoots and branches and belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). It grows from 30 to 60 cm tall; its square stems are more or less woody and stand upright.

 

The leaves are entire, sessile, somewhat rolled downwards and oppositely crossed on the stalk. They are up to 3.5 cm long and only a few millimetres wide.

 

From June to September blue, violet, sometimes reddish or white blossoms grow in the leaf axils. These are about 1 cm long with soft hairs and grow in cymes.

 

The scent of the herb is pleasantly spicy and camphor-like. Hyssop tastes tart, somewhat bitter, spicy, and mintlike, and is reminiscent of summer savory, thyme and rosemary. It is most aromatic just prior to or at the beginning of inflorescence.

 

Ingredients

Hyssop contains up to 1% essential oil; in the fresh herb the content is less than 0.2%. The most common components of the oil are pinocamphone and limonene. In some wild-growing varieties cineol, pinene, methyl eugenol and/or linalool have been found.

 

In addition flavonoids such as the bitter substance diosmin, resin, and tannins such as rosmarinic and caffeic acid are found in hyssop.

 

Harmful substances

In a high dose the pinocamphone can cause cramps. The content in leaves is so small, however, that there are no health concerns when it is used as a flavouring.

 

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Fresh hyssop keeps for several days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Drying leads to a relatively great loss of the aroma; nevertheless, this is the most frequently sold form. Dried goods should be protected from light and moisture.

 

Presumed effect on health

The botanical name with the term officinalis (=medicine) points to its use as a remedy, although its effectiveness is not documented, according to current findings.

 

Owing to its bitter and aromatic taste, hyssop presumably stimulates the appetite and the digestion and is recommended in folk medicine for stomach and digestive disorders. It has been a familiar household remedy since time immemorial and is believed to be stimulating, restorative, diuretic and anti-inflammatory.

 

An alleviating effect is often stressed for colds, chronic bronchitis, cough, asthma and respiratory infections. Hyssop is also used for gargling in case of sore throat and to promote blood circulation.

 

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

The fresh leaves, blossoms and young shoots are used preferably to flavour, but the dried and usually crushed herb is also used. Heating destroys the aroma; therefore, hyssop should not be added until the end of the cooking time, or it can be sprinkled directly over the finished dish.

 

Hyssop is used predominantly in southern Europe and in Oriental cuisine to flavour soups sauces and meat dishes, particularly beef and mutton, but also rabbit, lamb and game stews.

 

Marinades, dips, curd cheese and herb butter can be prepared with hyssop. Likewise it can be combined with fatty fish dishes such as eel, as well as with vegetables and legumes / pulses. It goes well with salads, egg dishes, potatoes, noodles and mushroom-rice.

 

It is used to make herbal teas and soft drinks, but owing to its spasmogenic effect it should not be consumed on a regular basis or in large quantities.

 

The essential oil is used industrially to make flavourings and liqueurs such as Bénédictine DOM and Chartreuse.

 

Seasoning tip

Due to its intensive and somewhat bitter taste, hyssop should be used only sparingly. It harmonizes with garlic, parsley, chervil and pepper, but it can also be combined with bay leaf, thyme or mint.


 

 

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