The earliest documented records of liquorice dates back over 3500 years. Alexander the Great used to give his troop liquorice for them to feel less thirsty. Liquorice has been used as medicine in Europe for a few centuries and as candy for about a hundred years.
Liquorice originates from the plant Liquorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Liquorice roots grows in Southern Europe, India and parts of Asia. Botanically and flavour-wise it is similar to anise, star anise and fennel. The word "liquorice" comes from Greek word "sweet root". The liqourice root contains the natural sweetener glycyrrhizin that is 50 times sweeter than white sugar. The plant is green and blooms during the late summer with blue-violet and white flowers.
When the liquorice root is 2-3 years old and up to 100 cm high it is harvested and its roots are chopped into pieces, grinded and finally dried. That way, a fine powder remains that can be used as an ingredient for mecicine or candy.
In the past, liquorice was mainly used a medicinal herb and in Sweden it was still available to purchase at pharmacies well into the 1970s.
Liquorice as candy
The main ingredients in soft liquorice are liquorice powder, flour, sugar, syrup and canola oil. If salmiak is addedd then we get salty liquorice. In Sweden, we eat nearly 2 kg of liquorice per person and year which makes us one of the biggest liquorice countries in the world - as an average. The biggest consumers are the Dutch. Liquorice candy is mainly consumed in the Nordic countries, Holland, Germany and England.
Liquorice from Calabria
In the most southern parts of the Italian mainland you will find the region Calabria where liquorice has been cultivated and extracted for hundreds of years - both for medicinal uses and candy production. The Calabrian liquorice is by many considered to be the best in the world and its flavour profile is significantly different from other types of liquorice. It has also the much higher price due to the limited supply and a costly production.