Food Of Iceland: Liquorice - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Food Of Iceland: Liquorice

Food Of Iceland: Liquorice

Published October 24, 2019

Sam O'Donnell
Main photo by
Adobe Stock

Liquorice gets a bad rap internationally, thanks to black jellybeans being the worst candy ever made, as well as Twizzlers completely missing the mark. (For reference: It’s not supposed to have so much damn anise!)

Beloved throughout the Nordics, the candy is made from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra—the liquorice plant—which is 30-50 times sweeter than sugar. Because of this, most Icelandic liquorice is tempered with salt, or coated in chocolate.

Due to a history of embargoes and restrictions on foreign candies, liquorice was pretty much the only candy available to Icelanders for hundreds of years, so the locals had to get creative. As a result, a love of liquorice is practically ingrained in the genes of Icelanders. Grocery stores and candy stalls sell the confection in all forms, whether it’s covered in chocolate, wrapped around marzipan, dusted in fine pepper, or sold by itself. And, of course, you can go to any ice cream shop in Iceland and have your soft-serve dipped in lava-like liquorice and covered in whatever candy you like.

Then there are the healing properties of the root. It has historically been prescribed to treat coughing, constipation and congestion, and to this day the pharmacy in Iceland sells a blend of liquid liquorice as a cough suppressant. It’s one of the few things in the world that can both cause a stomach ache and cure it. That said, science has recently found out that too much liquorice can cause high blood pressure and heart attacks—so perhaps moderation is best.

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