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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daily TWiP - National Licorice Day

Week in Preview

Welcome to Daily TWiP, your daily dose of all the holidays and history we couldn’t cram into The Week in Preview.

Licorice twists may be the perfect movie theater food - they don’t melt, they’re not particularly sticky, and you get enough of them in one bag that you don’t run out in the middle of the movie. Today (April 12th) on National Licorice Day, we are therefore pleased to celebrate the many varieties of licorice candy and the plant from which licorice extract is derived.

Licorice (also spelled liquorice) is actually the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, which is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. To obtain licorice extract, the roots are boiled in water and the water is then evaporated, leaving behind the licorice extract.

Licorice has a flavor reminiscent of anise or fennel, but the three plants are not related. The similar tastes are due to the presence of the compound anethole in all three plants. Licorice also contains glycyrrhizic acid, a substance roughly 50 times sweeter than sugar.

Originally, in order for candy to be considered licorice, it had to contain licorice extract. Over time, however, licorice has become more of a type of candy that now comes in decidedly non-licorice flavors like strawberry and watermelon.

Even when it comes to black licorice (considered to be the original licorice), a pure licorice flavor can be a challenge to find. Black licorice may be flavored entirely with anise or with a combination of anise and licorice.

In places like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Europe, where black licorice is more popular and stronger licorice flavors are more readily available, the licorice content of the candy is still quite low, with anise making up the difference.

Ultimately, that’s not a bad thing. Although licorice has some beneficial antiviral qualities and is used to flavor teas, medicines, and lozenges, too much glycyrrhizic acid may cause high blood pressure, heart irregularities, sodium and water retention, and headaches.

Fortunately, it takes much more than a package of licorice to deliver the necessary dosage of glycyrrhizic acid. You can tear open that pack of strawberry Twizzlers or Red Vines, even a pack of black licorice, and celebrate worry-free.

Daily TWiP appears Monday through Saturday courtesy of The Week in Preview. Read more of both at www.nashuatelegraph.com/columnists/weekinpreview.

Keep track of Daily TWiP, The Week in Preview, Tete-a-tete, and Teresa’s general ramblings at http://twitter.com/TeresaInPreview.

- Teresa Santoski