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Liquorice or licorice (see spelling differences) (IPA: /ˈlɪkərɪʃ, ˈlɪkərɪs, ˈlɪkrɪʃ/, or /ˈlɪkrɪs/ is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas) and native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 centimetres (3–6 inches) long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm (1/3 to 1/2 inch) long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 centimetres (about 1 inch) long, containing several seeds.[1]

Liquorice is grown as a root crop mainly in southern Europe. Historically, it is also linked with Pontefract in Yorkshire, England, which has an annual liquorice festival. Very little commercial liquorice is grown in North America, where it is replaced by a related native species, American Licorice (G. lepidota), which has similar uses. In northern China, the related Chinese Liquorice (G. uralensis) is cultivated for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Liquorice grows best in deep, fertile, well-drained soils, with full sun, and is harvested in the autumn two to three years after planting.[1]

Liquorice extract is produced by boiling liquorice root and subsequently evaporating most of the water (in fact, the word ‘liquorice’ is derived from the Ancient Greek words for ‘sweet root’). Liquorice extract is traded both in solid and syrup form. Its active principle is glycyrrhizin, a sweetener more than 50 times as sweet as sucrose which also has pharmaceutical effects. G. uralensis contains this chemical in much greater concentration.

Liquorice flavour is found in a wide variety of liquorice candies. The most popular in the United Kingdom are Liquorice allsorts. In continental Europe, however, far stronger, saltier candies are preferred. It should be noted, though, that in most of these candies the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, and the actual content of liquorice is quite low.

In the Netherlands Liquorice candy is called “Drop” (and it is actually one of the most popular forms of candy), but only a few of the many forms that are sold contain aniseed, although mixing it with mint, menthol or with laurel is popular, and mixing it with Ammonium chloride creates the very popular salty liquorice. [2]

Liquorice is also found in some soft drinks (such as root beer), and is in some herbal teas where it provides a sweet aftertaste. The flavour is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavours. Dutch youth often make their own “Dropwater” (Liquorice water) by putting a few pieces of laurel liquorice and a piece of liquorice root in a bottle with water and than shake it to a frothy liquid, and Dutch youths like to drink a liquorice based liqueur called a “dropshot”.

Some images of Liquorice