An aromatic plant with a good flavor, anise is grown in the heart of the Andes. With its licorice scent anise takes us to the land of Curahuasi in the region of Apurimac. There this flavorful seed is cultivated in large scale. Its product is distributed throughout Peru to make scented well flavored teas, pastries and breads, and liquors, as well as for the medicinal properties of anise, especially to calm stomach problems.
Known as the land of anise, Curawasi is considered by many the world capital of anise. Its name comes from the Quechua qhura meaning herbs and wasi which means house or building. It is a beautiful valley with fertile soil through which passes the great Apurimac river, the river of the speaking Apu, or Mountain Lord, and is surrounded by picturesque mountains. Among them is the snow-covered Salkantay, the second largest Apu, or mountain, of Cuzco.
Raising anise is the principle activity of the almost 17,000 residents of Curawasi. The well-known fertility of its soils and its climate produce outstanding aniseed from some seventy varieties of the plant.
Anisado is made by macerating aniseed in a liquor such as pisco. It is a kind of drink that is prepared within a glass bottle in order for it keep and continue macerationg. Anis Najar is a commercially produced variety of anisado, or anisette in English, that is commercially produced and bottled in Arequipa, Peru.
Anisado is used to reduce stomach pains. It is also often drunk after a good meal to help digest all consumed. In fact, in Peru there is a custom to have a shot of anisette or similar drink as a digestive, digestive, or bajativo, something to help the food go down. This is especially true following Cuzco’s traditional dishes. People say it is good not only for digestion in general but especially to help digest the fats that are common in pork and other rich meats or fried foods such as are abundant in Cuzco.
You always drink a shot of anisado after a meal of lechón, pork roast, chicharrón, deep fried, seasoned pork, or after eating huatia, potatoes and other tubers baked in the earth, since those dishes are known for being abundant and a bit heavy. After these mountains of food anisado is offered by saying “¨tomate un anisado para bajar el chancho, o matar el chancho¨ (have some anisette to make the pork go down, or to kill the pig). This is because if one does not drink anisette after such heavy meals one often suffers stomach upset. As a result that last part of the meal, the shot of anisette, is important to make the meal complete and the diners satisfied.
In Cuzco’s homes it is a family tradition to always have a bottle of anisado on the table or nearby, especially after a family meal. People will drink it so the food does not become heavy and uncomfortable.
If anisette is not available, or if people prefer another option, they can always have a drink of hot anise tea, made from tea bags containing the seed. People claim it has the same effect as the liquor,
Aniseeds are the part of the anise plant which has the most aromatic power and they have a touch of sweetness. They are used in Cuzco’s traditional breads to give them that magic touch. These include ch’uta bread, bread babies, and jurka bread. The special flavor reminiscent of licorice given the breads by the anise is part of what makes them special.
A friend who came from Curawasi to study in the city of Cuzco told us that his homeland is beautiful, surrounded by mountains. On entering the town he says you immediately smell the anise.
From ancient times anise has been used in Peru as a medicinal plant. Today more people drink it as tea, especially in prepared tea bags, or as anisette.