In the food world today, it is largely just used in gins (such as Plymouth and Bombary Sapphire.) In powdered form, it can also be an ingredient in the spice mixture called “Ras el hanout.”
The root (“rhizome”) looks a bit like ginger, and can grow up 4 inches (10 cm) long.
It is dug up and harvested in August, then peeled and dried. Drying concentrates the oils in it. As its essence concentrates, it develops a violet smell.
The drying period can be up to five years, but is usually two years. It will look like chalk when dried.
It is then ground. It can be used in its powdered form for some applications such as Ras el hanout. If not, then it is mixed in water, then distilled to isolate the essential oil of it. It takes one ton of root to produce 5 pounds (2 kg) of the essential oil.
Orris Root is native to the Meditteranean.
The word “Orris” may be a corruption of the word “Iris.”
Technically actually the “rhizome”, the bulbous part of the underground root system. Three different kinds of Iris plants (Iris germanica, Iris florentina, and Iris pallida) are harvested for this. In Italy, the roots of all three kinds sold collectively as “ghiaggiuolo.” ↩