Pimpinella anisum is a peculiar little plant. Throughout history, its bursts of white flowers have been cultivated for their seeds. Those seeds were used medicinally, in sweets, and even liquor. Today, anise is still a well-known spice. What isn’t well-known though is that the plant behind those seeds has another tasty use: anise microgreens!
Growing anise as a microgreen is much easier and faster than one would expect. After a short germination time, each seed sprouts two smooth, oblong cotyledons. These precursors to real leaves have a mild licorice flavor. Similar licorice undertones are present in the serrated, vibrant green leaves that grow after the cotyledons. The sweet and mild taste is largely due to the presence of anethole – an organic compound that’s also found in fennel herbs.
Anise microgreens have a great flavor, but they also shine with health benefits. The green leaves and bright green stems are rich in Vitamin C, calcium, beta carotene, and iron. Just by sprinkling some anise microgreens on your salad, you’ll be adding more nutrients and vitamins to your diet. Some specific health benefits associated with anise are regulating blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, and easing the symptoms of depression and menopause.
In this article, we’ll give growing directions for cultivating your own crop of anise microgreens. From pre-soak to germination to harvest time, you’ll be able to master growing this plant year round!
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Growing Anise Microgreens
Anise microgreens germinate and grow just like most other microgreens, so you may be familiar with the process already. Whether you’re a novice or expert, here are our tips for growing microgreens from pre-soak to planting to harvest time.
Start by collecting the following materials:
- Seeds: We recommend the anise microgreen seeds from True Leaf Market
- Growing medium: seed-starting soil mix or Urban Worm Coconut Coir
- Light: use a T5 grow light for the best results
- Growing trays: one with drainage holes and one without
- Misting bottle
- Small weight (under 5 pounds)
- Kitchen shears
There isn’t anything unique to microgreen seeds – they’re the same seeds used to grow mature plants. The difference is in when the plant is harvested. So, you can use any variety of anise seeds available. However, for the best possible harvest, we recommend purchasing your seed from a reliable seller like True Leaf Market.
The baby roots that sprout from anise seeds have a big job. To make that job easier, provide them with fine-grained soil that’s easy for them to navigate. Seed-starting soil is made just for this, so it’s our favorite growing medium. Coconut coir is a close second, thanks to its water-retaining abilities.
Some seeds have thick seed hulls that need a good pre-soak to start the germination process. Luckily for us, anise seeds germinate fine without a pre-soak, which cuts down on their germination time. We can skip straight to sowing.
Start by preparing your tray and growing medium. Grab the tray with holes and fill it near to the brim with soil. Make the soil level and give it a quick misting of water. Next, sprinkle the microgreen seeds evenly across the whole soil surface. They should be crowded together without overlapping. Because we didn’t pre-soak the seeds, give them some moisture with the misting bottle. Anise microgreens seeds don’t like to be overwatered, so ensure that the growing medium is moist, not soaked.
Instead of covering the seeds with a thin layer of soil, place the second, holeless tray on top. This will block out the light while also acting as a humidity dome. To keep it in place, put a small weight on the top tray for the entire germination time.
Keep the top tray in place for the entire germination time, plus a few extra days (about 10-15 days). The microgreens seeds will germinate, sprout, and then shoot up in search of light. You’ll know this germination process is complete when the seedlings collectively push up the weighted top tray.
When you first remove the germination cover, you’ll be met with ghostly pale sprouts. This isn’t a cause for concern, though! The seedlings just haven’t started to produce chlorophyll yet. We’ll get them going by setting up their light source.
Position your grow light a foot or two directly above the soil level. If the light is off to the side – like with sunlight – the microgreens will lean towards it. This causes uneven growth and scraggly stems. When the microgreens get at least 12 hours of direct light every day, they’ll form an even, dense mat of greenery.
Since there are a couple of weeks between planting and harvest time, you’ll likely need to water the soil again. Instead of misting as we did initially, we’ll be watering from the bottom. This keeps the vibrant green leaves dry, helping prevent bacteria growth.
For bottom watering, you can reuse the cover tray from earlier. Fill it with an inch of water and set the growing tray inside it. The soil will absorb water through the draining holes without getting the surface wet. Leave the bottom tray in place for 10-15 minutes before removing it. Repeat this process whenever the soil begins to dry out.
Anise microgreens will be ready to harvest around 17-20 days after planting. Each microgreen should be a couple of inches tall with completely unfolded, bright green leaves (the cotyledons). We usually only harvest during the microgreen stage, but with anise plants, you can wait until the first, serrated true leaves appear. The taste will be slightly different here, so we recommend testing the microgreen’s flavor every few days to decide on the optimal harvest time.
To harvest, you’ll need a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Grab a bunch of anise microgreens in one hand and cut the green stems with the other. You can harvest the microgreens all at once or only as needed (remember that the taste will change as they grow!). To keep the microgreens flavor fresh, don’t wash them until you’re about to use them.
Anise microgreens might regrow if you leave some leaves behind, but don’t get your hopes up. You’ll have the most success just planting a new crop of microgreens. Plus, the second time around, you’ll know exactly when to harvest!
Anise microgreens have a unique flavor, so they’re fun to experiment with. Try them as a green garnish in meat or fish dishes. Or, add them to your salad for a mild licorice taste. No matter how you use their flavor, you’re sure to get more health benefits from your meals.
Like most fresh produce, anise microgreens have a short shelf life. You should be able to keep their flavor fresh for up to a week as long as they’re stored correctly. Wrap unused anise microgreens in a paper towel and seal them in an airtight container. Stick that container in the crisper drawer of your fridge. You may need to change out the towel every few days, so the greens stay as dry as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you grow anise microgreens?
A: Anise microgreens grow just like most microgreens. Keep the seed in the dark for the entire germination time, bottom-water the plants, and keep them under a growing light. After harvest time, put these sweet, green plants in a meat dish or salad.
Q: What do anise microgreens taste like?
A: Anise microgreens are known for their licorice flavor. They’re very similar to fennel microgreens in taste and health benefits.
Q: Which microgreens should not be eaten?
A: If the green leaves of the mature plant are edible, the microgreens will be edible. This is the case for most herb microgreens and some vegetable plants, like beet microgreens. Avoid any micro greens in the nightshade family, like tomatoes.
Q: What seeds should not be used in microgreens?
A: Since we eat microgreens soon after sprouting, don’t use seed that has been treated with chemicals. We recommend using organic, non-GMO seed for optimal health benefits.