Fruits of the Empire: Licorice Root and Juice

Liquorice, the roots of Glycirrhiza Glabra, a perennial plant, a native of the south of Europe, but cultivated to some extent in England, particularly at Mitcham, in Surrey.

Its root, which is its only valuable part, is long, fibrous, of a yellow colour, and when fresh, very juicy. The liquorice root grows wild in many parts of Greece, and especially in the province of Achaia, at Corinth and Missolonghi, in great abundance; its quality is considered very good, and has induced many to undertake its manufacture. Large quantities are annually prepared for exportation.

The liquorice grown in England is fit for use at the end of three years; the roots, when taken up, are either immediately sold to the brewers’ druggists, or to common druggists, by whom they are applied to different purposes, or they are packed in sand like carrots or potatoes till wanted.

Liquorice juice is the juice of the root just mentioned; very little of this extract is prepared in Britain, by far the greater part of our supply being imported from Spain and Sicily. The juice, obtained by crushing the roots in a mill, and subjecting them to the press, is slowly boiled till it becomes of a proper consistency, when it is formed into rolls of a considerable thickness, which are usually covered with bay leaves. This is the state in which we import it.

Most part of it is afterwards re-dissolved, purified, and cast into small cylindrical rolls of about the thickness of a goose quill, when it is called refined liquorice. It is then of a glossy black colour, brittle, having a sweet taste.

It is used in the materia medica, particularly in colds, coughs, etc.

It is said to have been introduced into this country in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

by Thomas Edward Dexter of the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea, 1875

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