Licorice, also known as liquorice, is a popular flavor in candy and beverages. It comes from the root of the licorice plant, scientifically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra. This plant is native to the Mediterranean region and some parts of Asia. Licorice has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its various health benefits, including soothing coughs and sore throats, aiding digestion, and reducing inflammation. The root of the licorice plant contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which gives licorice its distinct sweet taste. Licorice is now cultivated in many countries around the world, including Spain, Italy, Iran, and China.
When you go to the movies, what are you most excited about? Is it the thrilling action on the screen? Or perhaps the cozy, comfortable chairs?
If you’re like many kids, there’s something else that you can’t wait for: the food! Along with a large tub of buttered popcorn, many children eagerly anticipate the candy sold at movie theaters.
What kind of candy do you enjoy at the movies? For some people, nothing beats a delicious chocolate candy bar. Others might prefer malted milk balls or sugar-coated nonpareils. And then there are those who love to chew on a package of red or black ropes. What candy are we talking about? Licorice, of course!
When someone mentions licorice, you probably think of red or black candy ropes. But more than a century ago, people would’ve thought of something entirely different: a plant! That’s right, licorice is a plant scientifically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra.
Licorice plants grow naturally in southern Europe and Asia. Countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey are known for their licorice plants.
For thousands of years, the roots of licorice plants have been used for medicinal purposes. These roots contain a natural sweetener called glycyrrhizin. Just how sweet is it? It’s about 30-50 times sweeter than sugar!
Long before licorice became a candy, people used licorice root to treat various medical conditions, including sore throats, upset stomachs, congestion, indigestion, and constipation. Even today, licorice root is still used as an herbal remedy in many parts of the world. However, modern doctors caution that it can lower potassium levels and increase blood pressure.
Historians believe that licorice candy originated from mixing licorice root extract with honey to make throat lozenges for medicinal purposes. Over time, people started combining licorice root extract with different sweeteners and binders to create the chewy strings, twists, and ropes that we now know as licorice candy.
Candy enthusiasts will tell you that the term “licorice” is used quite loosely today. The true taste of licorice root is similar to what we commonly refer to as black licorice. However, it’s quite rare to find black licorice in the United States that actually contains licorice root extract. Instead, other flavorings, particularly anise, are often used.
As for red and other colored licorice, they do not contain any licorice root extract and do not taste like licorice root at all. Instead, they are flavored with various artificial fruit flavors, such as cherry and strawberry.
So what about Twizzlers and Red Vines? Most people would consider these popular candies to be red licorice. However, if you take a closer look at their packaging, you’ll notice that they do not advertise themselves as licorice, as they do not contain any licorice root extract.
Give It a Try
Are you ready to indulge in something delicious? Ask a friend or family member to join you in trying out the following activities:
In the wild, do you know how a licorice plant looks? Go online and watch the Gathering Licorice video to learn what wild licorice plants look like and when it’s the right time to dig up their roots. Do you happen to live in an area where licorice plants grow?
Have you ever had a chance to explore the inner workings of a licorice factory? Check out The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory video online. Does the factory look like a store you would want to visit? Have you ever been to a store that specializes in selling only candy? What kind of candy did you purchase?
Black licorice has a unique and strong flavor. Do you enjoy eating licorice? What are your reasons for liking or disliking it? Where does licorice rank on your list of favorite candies? Ask your friends and family members if they like licorice and find out their favorite types of candy.
Here are some sources to learn more about licorice:
1. Where does licorice come from?
Licorice comes from the root of the licorice plant, scientifically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia. It has been cultivated for thousands of years for its medicinal properties and its use as a sweetener and flavoring agent.
2. How is licorice harvested?
Licorice root is typically harvested by digging up the plant’s roots. The roots are then washed and dried before being processed further. The harvesting process usually takes place in the fall, when the plant has reached maturity and the roots contain the highest concentration of the active compounds.
3. What are the main uses of licorice?
Licorice is used for various purposes. It is commonly used as a flavoring agent in foods and beverages, such as candies, soft drinks, and herbal teas. It is also used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and expectorant properties. Licorice extract is often used in skincare products for its soothing and moisturizing effects.
4. Are there any health benefits to consuming licorice?
Consuming licorice in moderation may offer some health benefits. It has been used in traditional medicine to help with digestive issues, respiratory problems, and skin conditions. Licorice contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, it is important to note that excessive consumption of licorice or licorice supplements can have adverse effects, especially for individuals with certain health conditions or on certain medications.