The twisted story of licorice, the candy we love to hate

Be warned: ingesting too much can lead to a range of possible side effects, from irregular heartbeat to high blood pressure, muscle weakness and lethargy, caused by glycyrrhizin depleting your body’s potassium levels. Most people would not eat the amounts necessary to trigger these side effects (two ounces a day for fifteen days). And, in his defense, licorice Is trying to drive you away with its poisonous taste.

The English town of Pontefract is said to be the birthplace of the sweet and sour candy. In 1760, a pharmacist reportedly added sugar to a cough medicine containing licorice root to make it more palatable, and manufacturers began to release it in the mid-1800s. went viral in various countries. In Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, where the most licorice is consumed per capita in the world, salmiakki, a dark, salty, diamond-shaped version and deeply astringent, is loved by superfans. In the United States, Twizzlers and Red Vines both make black licorice twists. The French are crazy about Cachou Lajaunie pastels, intended to freshen the breath after a meal. In Sweden, they’re so into things that they launched the Lakritsfestivalen (“licorice festival”) in 2009, with tastings, competitions, entertainment and even sculptures made of the substance.

Wisely, many of the Australian confectionery companies I grew up with mask the taste of licorice itself by smothering it in chocolate to form a ‘ball’. We also prefer to dress our licorice in colored layered cubes and other various shapes, called “allsorts”, a concept we borrowed from the British. Cult brand Darrell Lea claims to produce enough licorice to circle the earth every year. They also make imitation flavors that completely eliminate the fennel-like stuff, with raspberry, grape, mango, green apple, and pineapple varieties in their lineup in various places.

Somehow the demand for the real deal, black licorice, is growing, especially in Europe and North America. A 2020-2030 forecast from Transparency Market Research, a global consumer insights firm, predicts that licorice, thanks to its natural sweetness, could fill the void left by those of us who give up sugary “junk food” for a better health. Although it baffles me, it also makes sense: 10.4% of the world’s population is expected to be diabetic by 2030.

Despite its potential health benefits and long twisted history, I was born hating licorice. When I find it in my mixed bags, it takes a quick flight to the nearest ferry. However, I can admire his tenacity. For a candy born out of cough medicine, licorice has really pulled itself up by the boot, uh, straps. I respect that kind of stickiness, but not in my molars, please.