Star Anise in bulk
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Illicium verum

star anise

plant overview
licorice-like flavor and fragrance

Star anise is a spice obtained from the star-shaped, immature fruits of an Asian evergreen tree. As the name suggests, the spice has a flavor that is reminiscent of anise, or licorice. The seed pods are used whole to flavor beverages, including mulled wine, teas and infused vodka or gin. Star anise is widely used in Asian cuisine and is a traditional component of chai, Chinese 5-Spice and garam masala seasoning blends. The aromatic pods or the ground spice are used in dried and simmering potpourri mixtures.

Clicking "learn more" next to each variety will take you to individual product pages for details.
Star anise
A Bit of Botany

a bit of botanical information about star anise

Star anise is an evergreen tree from the plant family Schisandraceae. It should not be confused with anise (Pimpinella anisum), which is from the parsley family (Apiaceae), although both species yield an essential oil containing anethole, a licorice-flavored extract which is used for flavoring drinks and candies. Star Anise is an evergreen tree up to 50ft tall. Trunk about 10 inches in diameter with white bark. Glossy, leathery leaves are held in bunches of three to six. Flowers are solitary, yellow-green, sometimes flushed pink to dark red, with 7–12 tepals, up to 20 stamens and usually 7–9 carpels. Flowers are usually produced from March to May and from August to October. Fruit are star-shaped, consisting of a ring of single-seeded, dark reddish-brown carpel attached to a central column. The fruits are fleshy, but on drying become woody and wrinkled. Fruit are usually produced from September to October and from March to April.

common names
& nomenclature

The generic name Illicium derives from the Latin illicium, meaning allurement, and refers to the attractive fragrance of this group of small trees and shrubs.

Also known as:
indian anise, chinese star anise, star aniseed, anise star, star anise

Though visually nearly identical to Chinese star anise the Illicium anisatium species (shown at right) is highly toxic.
Star Anise, the Asian licorice-like spice
Where in the World

habitat and range for star anise

Illicium verum is thought most likely to be native to southern China and northeast Vietnam. It has been cultivated since about 2,000 BC, and it is unknown whether plants growing in these areas are wild or naturalized. Star anise is cultivated in China, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hainan and the Philippines.

Cultivation & Harvesting

considerations for growing star anise

Star anise is grown widely in tropical areas in warm, sunny climates.

Seedlings are planted out in a rich, evenly moist, well-manured field when they are three years old.

Plants are propagated from cuttings or seeds, which nestle inside the points of the star-shaped fruit. Seeds are collected from high-yielding trees and sown within three days of collection or else stored wet at 5°C (41°F) for up to a year.

The star shaped fruits are harvested just before ripening.

Store dried fruit, whole or ground, in a cool dry place.

It is very important to make sure the spice is never confused or contaminated with another species. For instance, the Japanese species of star anise Illicium anisatum is nearly identical to Chinese star anise, but is highly toxic.

The Rest of The Story

star anise history, folklore, literature & more

star anise usable plant parts
Usable plant parts of star anise include the dried, unripe fruits, they used are either whole or ground.

flavor notes
Star anise has a strong, sweet licorice-like flavor, with warm spice notes and a mild numbing effect, also known to be 13 times sweeter than sugar.

culinary uses
To add some pungent, warm flavor to your cuisine, try adding one or two whole star anise pods to slow cooking soups and stews. Adding star anise to braising liquids when simmering a whole chicken or a beef roast is a particularly easy way to get meat that simply falls off the bone and retains its natural juices.

The pods are fragile and broken easily which doesn't diminish flavor and in fact makes for easier handling when only a small amount is desired for use. Star Anise is a powerful, potent spice that is best used sparingly. Powdered star anise can be made by grinding the entire dried fruit—carpels, seeds and all—to a fine, smooth-textured powder using a mortar and pestle or an electric mill. This dark powder can then be added to vegetables and other side dishes, as well as baked goods and puddings.

other uses
Star anise owes its distinctive flavor and aroma to the presence of anethole, a double-bonded ether that has as many commercial culinary applications as it does in the household kitchen. It's more than a dozen times sweeter than sugar making it a valuable and economical addition to many baked goods and confections. The anethole organic compound is also found in many alcoholic beverages such as the Italian liquor Gallianoa as well as many types of oral hygiene products.

traditional plant usage
asian cusine
Native to China, Vietnam, and grown in India, star anise is a traditional seasoning in Asian cuisine. It is a key ingredient in garam masala, a blend of seasonings that lends a pungent taste to many Indian curries and stews. Westerners are probably most familiar with star anise as the featured spice in the popular Chinese signature dish, Peking duck.

five-spice powder
Star Anise is also one of the ingredients contained in five-spice powder a traditional Chinese seasoning blend seeking to balance the yin and yang in food and encompasses all five flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty). There are many variants on the recipe, but the pungent blend can be known to contain Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, ground cloves, cinnamon and ground fennel seeds. Some variants add salt. It is ideal for seasoning meat but should be used sparingly due to its potent nature.

historical medicinal applications
Star anise is preppared as a tea which has application in traditional Chinese medicine.

star anise vs anise (or aniseseed)
star anise and anise similarities
A frustrating bit of nomenclature has created much confusion between star anise Illicium vernum featured here and anise Pimpinella anisum. To make matters worse: 1) both star anise and anise have a similar sweet, licorice aroma; 2) their respective essential oils both contain the anethole ether mentioned above; and 3) they can be used for substitutions for each other in certain recipes since they also both share a licorice-like flavor notes. Star anise however is much more pungent while anise is more subtle in flavor and ostensibly it is advised to use considerably less star anise than anise when making substitutions.

star anise and anise differences
The most obvious difference between star anise and anise is visual. When unground star anise is an eight-horned "star", and pods are red-brown and rust colored. Anise is a flowering herb whose seed is aromatic but light grey-brown, ridged and elongated. The anise seed is much smaller than the star anise.

Additionally these two plants are from different parts of the world. As mentioned star anise is native to China and Vietnam and it was not until the 16th century that it was seen in London or used in the West; whereas anise was used in Rome in the 1st century as anise is native to the Middle East and was able to be widely cultivated in the temperate climates of Europe.

farming and processing
Native to southwest of China and North Vietnam (but also grown in India and Japan) Illicium verum is a small evergreen member of the magnolia family. Its fruit is easily recognizable due to the eight-pointed star-shaped pods that house the seeds. The spice gets its name from the Chinese word that means "eight-corners" or "eight-horns". However, they are more commonly known throughout the world simply as star anise.

The star anise tree has long, narrow and shiny aromatic leaves with green-yellow flowers that are by contrast scentless. The tree bears fruit in its sixth year and can continue to do so for 100 years. The fruits are picked prior to being ripe when they are still green and are sun-dried. During drying the carpels harden and darken to a deep reddish brown and the aromatic compounds fully develop.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
Before making any changes to your diet you should always consult with your doctor,
especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have existing conditions.