Did you know that taste of licorice is so distinctive that its taste is detectable when diluted to one part licorice and twenty thousand parts water?
This yummy candy has been around since the ancient times. The Ancient Egyptians put licorice in the tombs of loved ones. The Ancient Chinese believed that eating licorice root gave them strength and endurance. Everyone from Caesar, to Alexander the Great, to the Scythian Armies used licorice for its healing properties and its ability to quench soldiers’ thirst. Licorice has also been used for medicinal purposes. The licorice root has been used as a cough suppressant, treatment to infection, ulcers, eczema, and throat irritation for over 3000 years!
Licorice was first grown in Europe at an English monastery in Pontefract. From there, word spread to America and then to the rest of the world, and it has been a favorite ever since! The reason the licorice root is so appealing is because of the aromatic compound Anethole. Anethole can be found in other foods such as fennel, anise, and other herbs. The sweet taste is from the compound Glycyrrhizin, which is fifty times sweeter than sugar. This combination of compounds makes the licorice flavoring that can be found in a multitude of products. It is found in varieties of candy, soft drinks, herbal teas, and even in some medicines to mask an unpleasant taste.
Today, licorice candies can be made in two ways. The first is to pour hot liquid licorice into a cornstarch mold and let cool. The second is to bring the hot liquid licorice, along with other colors and flavors, to a point where it is boiled so much the mixture turns into a dough like consistency. From there, it is stretched and extruded by formers that will give it a unique shape, such as a rope.
There is quite a bit of controversy over the taste of black licorice. It is one of those things that people either love or hate. The haters say that it has chemical smell similar to that of artificial sweeteners, but the lovers just go crazy for that distinct taste.
Fun Fact: National Licorice Day is April 12!