Liquorice

Liquorice

The name Glycyrrhiza glabra may not mean much to many, but specifying that it is the plant from which liquorice is derived completely changes the conversation. The one cultivated in Calabria was imported by the Benedictines as early as the 11th century. It came from the East, precisely from southwest Asia facing the Mediterranean. Evidence of it can already be found in ancient times, so much so that Theophrastus (a disciple of Aristotle) spoke of it enthusiastically in his writings. He recounted how the Arabs mixed its root with mare’s cheese to survive without water in the desert. The European Union has conferred DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status on Calabrian liquorice, but for hundreds of years our region has excelled in gastronomic production that knows no rivals. Defined by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as “the best liquorice in the world”, for centuries it was a luxury item, a jewel in the crown of Southern exports, indispensable in pharmacies and medicine, which left Calabria’s ports by sea to reach all of Europe. The name “Liquorice of Calabria” was introduced in the early 1900s to distinguish it from “Liquorice of Russia” which has a different flavor. The variety cultivated in our country has the lowest quantity of glycyrrhizin and a much sweeter and more fragrant taste. The market has always been one of the most flourishing, and only at the end of the century was there a significant decline. Liquorice, in fact, has numerous beneficial properties thanks to glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient that characterizes it. Liquorice is indicated for coughs, sore throats, catarrh, cervical pain, and gastric acidity; it also has a mild laxative effect. It is able to increase the water retention of cells and consequently reduce the body’s water requirement. Furthermore, liquorice is excellent for combating nervous gastritis, abdominal spasms, and cramps due to the antispasmodic effect exerted by flavonoids. Not only that: liquorice also has antiviral and antibacterial properties, protecting the respiratory system from bronchitis and colds. The anti-inflammatory and cicatrizing properties of liquorice make it an excellent natural remedy for skin inflammations such as eczema, psoriasis, herpes, and dermatitis. Thanks to its numerous benefits, liquorice is widely used in Italy in cooking for the preparation of sweets and candies, but its sweet and bitter taste at the same time is playing an increasingly important role even in savory dishes. Liquorice root is used to prepare sauces to accompany meat and fish as well as original dishes like liquorice risotto. A traditional preparation based on this aromatic root is liquorice liqueur.

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