The liquorice (UK) or licorice (US) plant is a distant relative of beans and peas native to Southern Europe and parts of Asia. Despite having similar chemical flavour compounds it has no relation to star anise or fennel.
The distinct flavour is derived from the fruit that grows on the plant. They are oblong pods, growing a few centimetres in length. The similarity between anise and fennel is a compound called anethole which is found in all three plants as well as several other kinds of herb.
As well as being a popular, albeit fairly old fashioned, candy, liquorice is also a versatile form of medicine. It is used to treat ailments ranging from hepatitis to melanoma. Interestingly it can also prove dangerous to liver function if taken in very high doses.
Easily available either as a hard boiled sweets, or in the classic form of pure liquorice tronchettini, which are completely organic and natural pellets you can either grate or grind. They have an extremely intense flavour despite their size.
Flavour: Sweet, liqourice