Garden Lifestyle

Celebrate Spring and Agastache, Herb of the Year 2019!

  • As you can see, the Agastaches dry well--even the blooms keep their color. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • You can make an herbal sugar with dried or fresh leaves and flowers. A dried one won't have quite the same bouquet, however it is still tasty. Use about half the amount of dried herb in place of fresh, since it is more concentrated.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Combine herbs and sugar in food processor (remove any big stems) and pulse to combine; don't pulverize the herb.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Leave a little herbal texture. Once blended, the sugar is ready to use in a recipe. Store the prepared sugar in a jar out of sunlight to have on hand as needed.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • To make the cookie dough, cream the butter with the anise hyssop sugar, then add the egg and pulse to combine well.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Use a good-quality unsweetened chocolate.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Melt the chocolate and add it to the dough, pulse to combine. Add the flour to the wet dough, pulsing until just combined.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Scoop the dough onto plastic wrap to make logs.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Refrigerate the logs until they are firm enough to slice. They can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Use a sharp knife to slice the dough into 1/4-inch slices.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Cut the logs into slices and arrange them on a baking sheet.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Bake cookies in a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes; they should be firm though do not overbake. Remove from baking sheets to cool on a rack.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

I am gearing up for upcoming spring programs and I will be kicking off the gardening season at the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show in Little Rock, from March 1 to March 3. There is a great lineup of speakers all day long everyday–you can look online at and scroll down to the 30-minute programs under Gardening How-to’s or here is the three day schedule:

I will be doing a program on Agastache, Herb of the Year 2019 on Saturday at 11 am and there you can sample my Chocolate Butter Cookies with Anise Hyssop; see recipe below. On Sunday at 1 pm, I will co-present Grow Your Own Herbs with Tina Marie Wilcox. Be sure to come see our garden and display at the Ozark Folk Center booth while you are there!

The following week, we will present Growing Herbs in Containers at the Arkansas River Valley Lawn and Garden Show in Fort Smith, Arkansas on Friday, March 15.

Finally spring is in the air! Shake off those winter blues and gear up for the gardening season–come on out and get inspired!

Meanwhile, here is a sneak-peak recipe from the forthcoming book Agastache, Herb of the Year 2019: Anise Hyssop, Hummingbird Mints and More–the new book published by the International Herb Association is at the printers–however you can make the recipe now!


Chocolate Butter Cookies with Anise Hyssop

This is a variation of the almond and anise hyssop butter cookies from Flowers in the Kitchen–same easy to work with dough with chocolate added. You can use both the leaves and the flowers of anise hyssop, but the flowers have a higher oil content, thus a stronger taste. You could also use tarragon, fennel or basil for a similar anise flavor. Korean mint (Agastache rugosa) has a minty flavor rather than anise as dp spme of the hummingbird mints and are also quite good in this cookie; mint or lavender could replace the anise-flavored herbs in this recipe. They keep well in a tin, or up to 2 months in the freezer. This recipe was first published in Herb Companion in the article “A Match Made in Chocolate” published in 2001.

Note: If you don’t have fresh anise hyssop up in your garden yet, use dried in place of the fresh, however reduce the amount to a small handful of dried leaves and/or flowers–about 3 tablespoons–just process with the sugar.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

1/3 cup anise hyssop flowers and bracts, or leaves
1 cup sugar, preferably organic
1 extra-large egg
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the hyssop and sugar in the food processor and pulse until well blended. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and the chocolate. Gradually mix in the flour and salt.

The dough will be soft. Divide the dough into 2 parts. Using plastic wrap to shape the dough, roll each part into a cylinder about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Chill the rolls for an hour, or place in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350? F. Remove the plastic wrap and slice the dough into 1/4-inch rounds. Place the cookies on ungreased baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are a nice and brown. Remove the cookies from the baking sheets while they are hot and cool on racks.


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