Licorice is a graceful, arching, deciduous perennial which grows to about 1.5m. It has a thick, deep taproot and spreads underground via extensive stolons. Above ground it has pinnately compound leaves and loose spikes of purple flowers. Licorice grows particularly well on the rich alluvial plains of Turkey, which, together with Spain and Greece, is still a leading world supplier.
Licorice prefers a rich, deep, sandy loam and a sunny position. New crops are propagated by rhizome segments planted in spring, but can also be propagated by seed. Portions of rhizome left in the soil at harvest time will generate new plants.
Both the taproot and the rhizomes can be used. They are usually dug when 3 years old and air-dried before being ground and then processed. Licorice root is one of the many spices and herbs used in Chinese master stocks, adding to their intensity and depth of flavour. Add the chopped root sparingly (as it can be bitter) when stewing fruit.