Hyssop

Hyssop (Hyssopus) is a genus of about 10-12 species of herbaceous or semi-woody plants in the family Lamiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to central Asia.[1] They are aromatic, with erect branched stems up to 60 cm long covered with fine hairs at the tips. The leaves are narrow oblong, 2–5 cm long. The small blue flowers are borne on the upper part of the branches during summer. By far the best-known species is the Herb Hyssop (H. officinalis), widely cultivated outside its native area in the Mediterranean.

Note that anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum (also called blue giant hyssop), is a very different plant and not a close relation, although both are in the mintfamily. Anise hyssop is native to much of north-central and northern North America.

 

During its first year it only grows leaves, but during its second year its fluted stem can reach a height of two meters (or six feet). Its leaves are composed of numerous small leaflets, divided into three principal groups, each of which is again subdivided into three lesser groups. The edges of the leaflets are finely toothed or serrated. The flowers, which blossom in July, are small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in colour, are grouped into large, globular umbels, which bear pale yellow, oblong fruits. Angelica only grows in damp soil, preferably near rivers or deposits of water. Not to be confused with the ediblePastinaca sativa, or Wild Parsnip.

Angelica archangelica grows wild in FinlandSwedenNorwayDenmarkGreenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, mostly in the northern parts of the countries. It is cultivated in France, mainly in the Marais Poitevin, a marsh region close to Niort in the départment Deux-Sèvres. It also grows in certain regions in Germany like the Harz mountains, and in certain regions of Romania, like the Rodna mountains.

Cultivation

The name hyssop can be traced back almost unchanged through the Greek ύσσωπος (hyssopos) and Hebrew אזוב (ezov).[1] The Book of Exodus records that the blood of the sacrifices was applied to the doorposts using hyssop on the night of Passover. Its purgative properties are also mentioned in the Book ofPsalms.[2] In the New Testament, a sponge soaked in sour wine or vinegar was stuck on a branch of hyssop and offered to Jesus of Nazareth on the cross just before he died.[3] Both Matthew and Mark mention the occasion but refer to the plant using the general term καλαμος (kalamos), which is translated as “reed” or “stick.”

The seeds are sown in spring and the seedlings planted out 40–50 cm apart. Hyssop can also be propagated from cuttings or root division in spring or autumn. Hyssop should be grown in full sun on well-drained soil, and will benefit from occasional clipping. It is short-lived, and the plants must be replaced every few years. It is ideal for use as a low hedge or border within the herb garden.

Hyssop also has uses in the garden; it is said to be a good companion plant to cabbage because it will deter the Cabbage White butterfly.[4] It has also “been found to improve the yield from grapevinesif planted along the rows, in particular if the terrain is rocky or sandy, and the soil is not as easy to work as it might be.”[5] Hyssop is said to be antagonistic to radishes, and they should not be grown nearby. Hyssop also attracts beeshoverflies, and butterflies, thus has a place in the wild garden as well as being useful in controlling pests and encouraging pollination without the use of unnatural methods.

Hyssop leaves can be preserved by drying.[1] They should be harvested on a dry day at the peak of their maturity and the concentration of active ingredients is highest. They should be dried quickly, away from bright sunlight in order to preserve their aromatic ingredients and prevent oxidation of other chemicals. Good air circulation is required, such as an airing cupboard with the door left open, or a sunny room, aiming for a temperature of 20-32°C. Hyssop leaves should dry out in about six days, any longer and they will begin to discolor and lose their flavor.[1] The dried leaves are stored in clean, dry, airtight containers, and will keep for 12–18 months.

Hyssop is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Cabbage Moth.

Usage

Hyssop is used as an ingredient in eau de Cologne and the liqueur Chartreuse. It is also used to color the spirit Absinthe, along with Melissa and Roman wormwood.[6] Hyssop is also used, usually in combination with other herbs such as liquorice,[7] in herbal remedies, especially for lung conditions.[8] Hyssop is also antibacterial, anticapillary fragility, antiinflamatory, etc., and can help with about 81 different medical conditions including cancer, bronchitis, insomnia, edema, colds, etc.[9] When consumed in extract or tea form it is an expectorant of mucus from the respiratory tract, therefore relieving congestion, can regulate blood pressure, and can dispel gas. It helps with circulatory problems, epilepsy, fever, gout, and weight problems. Poultices can be made from fresh hyssop to help heal wounds. Caution should be taken by expectant mothers: It should not be used during pregnancy.[10]

Ritual use

Hyssop is a sacred plant[citation needed] used in Judaism, it appears repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible as Ezov. In Exodus 12:22 the Jews in Egypt are instructed to “Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin, and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning.” It is used by the priests in the Temple of Solomon for purification rites of various kinds in Leviticus 14:4-7, 14:49-52, 19:6, 18. Hyssop is also often used to fill the Catholic ceremonial Aspergillum, which the priest dips into a bowl of holy water, and sprinkles onto the congregation to bless them. However, researchers have suggested that the Biblical accounts refer not to the plant currently known as hyssop but rather to one of a number of different herbs.”[11][12]

The Talmud calls the hyssop אברתא and considers it to be a herbal remedy for indigestion.[13]

Culinary use

Hyssop leaves have a slightly bitter minty flavour and can be added to soups, salads, or meats, although should be used sparingly, as the flavour is very strong.

 

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}