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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Ted and the secret agent



… enter stage left secret agent James Bond a man of supposedly unprecedented ability … but could he really compete in the ability stakes with a botanical secret agent that’s hidden in plain view in our everyday life.

Liquorice in its raw form has been quietly doing good stuff for us for centuries. Large supplies of remarkably well preserved liquorice roots were found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb. The powers of liquorice had a part in Alexander the Great’s successful conquering of much of western world. His herbal physician realised that chewing on liquorice root helped his troops alleviate thirst and provided them with stamina and endurance for their long marches across the deserts to conquer like … more places. Another military leader, Napoleon, was very fond of it and chewed on liquorice root almost constantly by all accounts, his somewhat obsessive behaviour being rewarded by some nicely blackened teeth.

Liquorice is a member of the pea family (yep surprised me too) and its roots have been prized for centuries for their wide ranging powers. In fact, aside from the ease of synthesis and preparation made possible by modern technology, our use of liquorice in the western word has changed little over the last 3,000 years (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it). Liquorice is a common if un-noticed ingredient in many products – the most noticeable taste wise probably being cough and cold medicines where its ability to sooth irritated membranes, act as a decongestant, and help us clear our respiratory tract of gooky cold stuff makes it a champion agent.

It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, protects the liver, soothes the stomach, and is generally very busy in a wide range of anti-allergic daily activities. A less publicised use that consumes a lot of the global supplies is in flavouring tobacco, making it sweeter in flavour and easier to inhale … return to cough medicine section …


Liquorice came to the UK by way of the saddlebags of Crusaders returning from the holy wars, and its cultivation really began in the 14th century when a group of Spanish monks settled in Pontefract in Yorkshire. In 1750 a local chemist in that town invented a sweet liquorice pastille that was duly stamped with an impression of the city’s castle and became known as the “Pontefract cake” and really put Pontefract on the map.  Growing liquorice in the UK gradually faded out. Then about four years ago a local farmer near Pontefract decided to plant it on a commercial basis and it’s coming on a treat.

Each year Pontefract holds a liquorice festival in July – apparently allsorts go … 

4 comments:

Adullamite said...

You failed to mention the rotting teeth from eating to much of those 'All Sorts.'
I will not mention how I know this...

Gunn said...

Just like Ted, I learned something new.
Interesting posting, and it looks as nice as I remember it.
I have not seen much of it here in Norway, apart from the duty free shops at airports.

Sharon Anck said...

Well, I've learned something new today. I had no idea licorice was good for you!

William Kendall said...

My grandparents often had candies like those in the top shot around. I liked them- though not black licorice!

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