It is written that the Greeks from the Scythians where the first to learn the beneficial
uses of the Liquorice plant. In the 3rd century BC. Theophrastus commented on the
many different taste of Liquorice roots. In the 7th century BC, there is reference
to Liquorice in the Royal Assyrian clay tablets. They called it Susu.
Liquorice is officially in all Pharmacopoeias ( a book describing all medicine preparation).
Hundreds of tons are imported into the country for commercial and medical purposes
every year, from Spain, Russia, Germany, Italy, France and the East.
Most comes from Spain & Italy, as the British Pharmacopoeias do not recognize Russian
& Persian Liquorice as suitable for medical purposes.
The plant most valuable commercially and widely cultivated is the Glycyrrhiza variety;
the name is from the Greek meaning Sweet Root. Liquorice grows best on sandy soil
near streams. It will not flourish on clay and prefers rich, fine soil that is moist
yet free draining in the growing season but hard and dry through the summer months.
The shoots should be planted out in February and March in well-fertilized soil, being
a hardy perennial that grows between 2ft-5ft tall. Each root if unrestricted can
reach a depth of 3 to 4 feet (90-120cm) and can extend to 25 feet (10 metres).
The Pontefract root is best harvested after 5 years, unlike in Europe where it only
takes 3-4 years to mature. At this time it has a sweet substance, if it is left too
long it becomes tough very coarse and woody. Because of our northerly climate Pontefract
Liquorice rarely flowers. This benefits it's sweet flavour, as once the plant flowers
the sweetness of the root is reduced.
One acre of land can produce 4-5 tons every 3-4 years.
Fresh English Liquorice is bright yellowish brown; the root being soft and pliable
has a peculiar earthy odour and a strong characteristic sweet taste.