Meet anise hyssop, licorice's zippy younger cousin

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Anise hyssop at the Coleman Family Farm stand is a mint variety with large leaves and a slight licorice flavor. Photo by Gillian Ferguson/KCRW

Chef Miles Thompson makes it his mission to showcase seasonal produce on his menus. He's planning to open a restaurant in Echo Park with Andy Schwartz. Until then, they have Baby Bistro, a 19-seat pop-up restaurant in a former barber shop at the Normandie Hotel in Koreatown. 

Searching for anise hyssop, a mint variety, at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer's Market, Thompson tells correspondent Gillian Ferguson that the herb tastes like Indian candy-coated fennel seeds. Hesitant to describe the flavor as bitter, he calls anise hyssop "the zippy younger cousin of licorice." 

At Baby Bistro, where he and Schwartz change the menu every two weeks, he'll use anise hyssop as a garnish in a beet and strawberry salad. Thompson cites two types of beets available at the market — freshly grown baby beets and the "overwintered" beets that have developed a lot of sugar from staying in the ground. Reservations for Baby Bistro are only available via direct message on Instagram.

Anise hyssop is just coming into season, but Romeo Coleman also grows other greens at Coleman Family Farms in Ventura. At his farmers market stand, you'll find two types of chives and hoja santa, which he recommends wrapping around fish for the grill. While the purple ruffles basil is eye-catching, Coleman says tending to it is difficult because it's slow-growing and must be cleaned and weeded several times before harvest.