Anise, also known as aniseed, is one of the oldest known spice plants used for culinary and medicinal purposes with references to it dating back to 1500BC. In 1305 King Edward 1 classified anise as a taxable drug and used its tax revenues to repair London Bridge.
Today anise has a variety of uses because of its sweet and liquorice-like pungent flavour, from cough syrups to alcoholic drinks to liquorice to soups and stews. It is indigenous to the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean but is now grown in many regions of the world. It is available as whole yellow-brown oval seeds or ready-ground. It should not be confused with star anise, which is generally used in Chinese cooking.