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A Giant Hyssop

A Giant Hyssop

The giant hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is an herb that grows in the Mediterranean region. It has been used to treat a variety of illnesses, including fever, cough, and intestinal infections. The hyssop plant has a long history of use in traditional Mediterranean medicine and is still used medicinally in Europe today.A thick spike cluster 1 to 6 inches long of light blue to violet tubular flowers. Individual flowers are about 1/3 inch long with 4 long stamens. The lower lip of the tube is longer than the upper lip, has a wide center lobe and 2 small side lobes. The spikes are usually tightly packed with flowers but sometimes there are gaps in the spike (interrupted). Not all of the flowers in the spike are in bloom at one time. The color of the cup-like whorl of sepals (calyx) holding the flower ranges from green tinged blue-violet to deep blue-violet. One plant may have multiple spikes.

Plant

Giant Hyssop can be started from seed indoors, or plants can be purchased to set out in spring after the danger of frost is past, or in summer. If you wish to start your own plants from seed indoors, they can be seeded in late March for planting outside in early June. The seed germinates in 6-10 days with bottom heat around 21 degrees C. Bottom heat can be provided by heating cables or by setting just above a hot air register until germination begins. Plants will bloom the second year from seed.You can make your own Giant Hyssop tea. It's easy and fun to do. The leaves and flowers of hyssop contain oils that provide a pleasant licorice (anise) flavour. Plants can be harvested any time during the growth season, but mid-summer, when the flowers are just past full bloom, is the best time. Cut the stalks off at ground level with a sharp knife or shears.

Tie bunches of stalks together and hang them upside down, somewhere cool, dry and out of the sun, until the leaves and flowers are brittle. Then strip the leaves and flower parts off the stems and crush them into tiny bits. Placing the leaves into a large plastic bag and crushing them by hand works well. Put the resulting "tea" mix into a sealed container to keep it dry.There are a couple of things to bear in mind when harvesting hyssop for tea. First of all, check the plants to see if they contain the flavoured oils. Sometimes individual plants have little or no flavour. Whether this is a genetic trait or the result of environmental conditions isn't known. You can test for flavour by picking a leave off the plant. Crush and roll it between your fingers, then take a sniff. If you smell the licorice scent strongly then the plant will make good tea. If not, look elsewhere. And, wherever you are harvesting, be it your garden or from the wild, don't remove all the plants for tea. Always leave at least half the "crop" so the plants will be able to grow for the rest of the season and replenish themselves for next year's harvest. It's OK to use our natural heritage, provided you conserve it for tomorrow. (Source: www.naturenorth.com)

 

 

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