Welcome to the Liquorice History
Liquorice to grow again in Pontefract?
Liquorice and its roots.
Liquorice, the unassuming sweet with its distinctive appeal, rarely ranks as any individual’s number one, most favourite sweet – that spot inevitably belongs to chocolate - but you’d be surprised at its popularity globally. It has been used as confection for up to four thousand years, and has been consumed around the world since ancient times, from Asia, throughout the Roman Empire, and from the dawning of the new frontier of America.
It’s thick, dark texture, unique taste and sweetness is enjoyed by hundreds of millions around the globe each year, and little has changed in its production and presentation throughout the ages.
It is produced from the roots of a legume shrub that grows up to a metre in height, with the roots growing up to twice this length beneath ground level. The plant grows relatively slowly, with the roots being harvested generally in the second or third year. Rich, loamy, well-drained soils are what is required for growth, as the plants thrive in cool temperate as well as equatorial climates. Once grown, the roots can be stored for long periods without any loss of quality. The plants flavour is derived mainly from glycyrrhizin, a compound sweeter than sugar, which the roots are loaded with.
The roots can be chewed to release the flavours, and the pulp, which is indigestible, spat out, but this is not recommended. In production, the roots are mashed and the compound extracted in this way. It is often mixed with sugars for consistency.
Yorkshire farmer plans to get a tonne of sweet roots from half-an-acre of rich soil and sell the cut sticks of black stuff from his own sweetie shop. Liquorice fan Rebecca Smithers reports in the Guardian
The production of liquorice has declined in the Pontefract area over the last 200 years as the popularity of chocolate has boomed, yet it remains very important to the local economy. Special commissions are made from time to time, including for special effects for films. In the James Bond film “Gold-Finger” a villain had to bite through a cable of a cable car, and Pontefract Manufacturers produced a suitable liquorice cable and delivered it direct to the Pinewood Studios.