Everyone knows the unmistakable aroma of licorice, many know that it is obtained from the root of a plant. Licorice is a very hardy perennial herbaceous plant of the Fabaceae family, which grows to a good size, reaching up to two meters in height.
It is cultivated to extract the rhizome, that is, the root, which can be eaten or used to make an extract, from which a variety of sweets and other products with a characteristic aroma come to life. licorice ( Glycyrrhiza glabra ) is a plant that requires a hot and dry climate, so it is not suitable for northern regions, but it can be successfully inserted in gardens in central and southern Italy. It is a widespread crop in the Mediterranean, North Africa and Iran. Calabria has a centuries-old tradition in the production of excellent liquorice, for which the liqueur is also famous.
If you want to try growing a licorice plant in your garden, remember that you need patience, as you are harvesting roots from plants that are at least three years old.
soil and climate
Organically grown licorice
Harvesting and uses of the roots
train and weather
Climate . As mentioned in the introduction, it is a plant that loves a temperate climate, which is why it is very good in central and southern Italy, while it has some problems to be grown in the north from Italy. This culture requires a fairly dry soil and excellent exposure to the sun, it does not fear the heat of summer.
Stage. Proper tillage is essential for growing licorice, as this plant does not tolerate standing water. This crop particularly likes soft and sandy soils, being a rhizome crop for proper development, too clayey and compact or stony soils are not suitable, which could mechanically hinder the growth of the root. Nitrogen fertilization can help to have good results, but without exaggerating because otherwise the zone is favored to the detriment of the underground part which interests us. This culture also likes a good presence of phosphorus, but potassium is also useful for root formation and therefore just as necessary.
Sow . Licorice seeds are put in March, where it is also very hot in February. If you start by planting in a protected nursery, you can plant it a little earlier, in February or even January if it is grown in the south. It is best to germinate licorice in trays and then transplant the formed seedling, as they are not very easy seeds to grow. The seed should be about 1 cm deep. When transplanted to the field, the suggested distance between plants is 60 cm, a good sixth planting provides rows with a distance of 100 cm between them.
Cups . If you want to start growing licorice instead of sowing it, the easiest method is to plant a rhizome, from which the plant can be developed by cuttings. This way you avoid having to wait for germination. To make the cuts, you need a root of at least 10 centimeters.
Growing licorice in pots . Theoretically, it is possible to grow licorice on the balcony, even if you need very large and heavy pots, because the root accumulates less than 30 cm deep and needs space to be productive. For this reason, our advice is to avoid growing in pots and placing licorice directly in the ground. However, those who do not have a garden available and who are curious to see the plant can try the same thing, knowing that in pots there is no significant production to be expected.
Irrigation . The liquorice plant requires little water: this is why it is recommended to water it rarely, only in the event of prolonged drought. On the contrary, it is a culture that is very afraid of water stagnation, the roots can rot if the soil remains wet for a long time.
Weeding. Weed removal should be done carefully when the plant is young, especially during the first year of cultivation. Then the plant becomes stronger and is able to carve out a place for itself, so the work of controlling weeds in the field is greatly reduced and maintaining licorice becomes easy.
vegetative stasis. Licorice plants go into vegetative stasis in the fall, dry out. During this period, the dry aerial part can be cut and removed. This is also a good time to harvest, if the plant is at least three years old.
Opposites. The most common problem with this plant is rot, caused by standing water, which often leads to the development of fungal diseases, such as stem rust, root rust and root rot. These diseases can damage the plant and compromise the harvest.
Collection and uses of the root
roots collection . Licorice root is found in the ground, you have to dig to harvest it. The roots can then be consumed directly or used for extracts. As already mentioned, the roots are harvested from plants that are at least 3 years old. Licorice roots also grow deep, so you will have to dig up to half a meter. Harvesting takes place after summer, until November, when the plant begins to dry out for a moment of vegetative stagnation. After cleaning them, the roots are dried to obtain the sticks which can be eaten or chopped for infusions. Rhizomes left in the ground after harvest can restart the crop without reseeding. If you want to move the plant, you need to save some rhizomes and let them take root by making a cut.
Properties, advantages and contraindications. Licorice is an officinal plant, to deepen the interesting topic of its properties, I recommend reading the article dedicated to the properties of licorice root. In short, licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a substance that can cause increased blood pressure. Therefore, care must be taken not to overdo the consumption of licorice. Several medicinal properties are attributed to this plant, which has a digestive function, is useful in cases of low blood pressure and to relieve coughs.