Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The name Pimpinella probably conjures up a couple of things for you. Perhaps a fictional 18th-century hero? Or maybe an inner-city entrepreneur? An early Jane Fonda role?

Actually Pimpinella is a botanical genus that includes the anise plant, which produces licorice-flavored seeds used primarily in baking.

A study conducted by scientists at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has shown that anise is more than just a pretty spice. The researchers identified 22 compounds high in something called phenylpropanoids. Although these compounds are found in lots of plants, the chemical structure of those found in Pimpinella plants suggests they have anti-inflammatory potential as well as phytoestrogen properties.

Although anise is not all that common an ingredient in most American kitchens, anyone of Italian heritage has probably had (or even made) waffle cookies called pizzelle. Most recipes for pizzelle call for anise extract or anise oil (a highly concentrated form of the good stuff found in the seeds). Who knew pizzelle was health food?

If you're interested in making your own pizzelle, you need to check out the collection of irons (from $17-$50) at the Fantes Kitchen Wares Shop. They also sell both anise oil ($6 for 2 ounces) and anise extract ($3 for 2 ounces), and they have an old family recipe for pizzelle.

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