The Spice Series: Star Anise

This is a continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information on Star Anise!

Illustrations by Christy Beckwith


**Star anise is a unique spice that is as beautiful as it is practical. Nature gave this spice perfectly pointed stars, with each arm containing a shiny, polished seed. The star-shaped casing has the most flavor, but the seeds contain some of it as well.

**Star anise is such an important spice for Chinese cuisine that the Chinese have a version of the four-leaf clover legend about it: it is widely believed that a whole, intact star with more than the normal eight points/arms is very good luck.

**This spice has a savory-sweet flavor to it, often compared to licorice with a slight cinnamon and clove taste. It has a large quantity of a chemical called anethole, which makes star anise 13 times sweeter than sugar.



This article includes information on the medicinal benefitsculinary uses, and even how to grow your own star anise. I hope you like this material, and, as always, if you have any questions/comments/additional sources for me, please post in the comment section below! Enjoy!



Medicinal Benefits:

Illustration by Christy Beckwith
Illustration by Christy Beckwith

**Scientists have begun researching star anise recently and have been discovering some important chemical compounds in this spice that are good for our bodies. For example, the compound in star anise called shikimic acid helps treat the flu. Other compounds in star anise have been found to play a role in fighting viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Scientists continue to discover even more medicinal benefits in this plant.


**Star anise may help prevent and/or treat: Asthma, Bronchitis, Coughs, Cancer, Cold sores, Flu, Mononucleosis, Septic shock, Tooth decay, Insomnia, Bad Breath, and Digestion.

**It is also an immune system builder.

**Star anise seeds have also been useful in treating digestion related problems. It helps cure digestive disorders and helps strengthen the digestive system.

**Star anise has carminative, stomachic, stimulant, and diuretic properties. In addition, it is used as a flavoring to hide the tastes of more bitter medicinal teas and medicines.



Culinary Uses:star-anise

**It is no exaggeration to say that star anise is one of the most important ingredients in Chinese cuisine. If you ever find yourself trying to duplicate a recipe on Chinese food (like Peking duck or Chinese spare ribs) and it seems to be missing something, it is probably that you forget star anise.


**One of the secrets to Chinese cooking is using star anise when working with meat. In addition, the spice mix called โ€˜Chinese Five Spiceโ€™ has star anise in it.


**Star anise is also used in many Vietnamese and Malaysian foods as well. For example, it is a key ingredient in the Vietnamese beef soup called pho. It is also important in Malaysian curries. You will also find it in their marinades, stews, and meat rubs.

**In Western cuisines, star anise is often added to sweet foods such as fruit compotes and jams as well as licorice-flavored syrups and beverages.


**Star anise pairs well with these spices: Allspice, Black pepper, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cumin, Curry leaf, Ginger, Fennel seed, Mint, Nutmeg, and Vanilla.

**It complements recipes that includes: Beef, Chicken, Custards, Duck, Fish, Fruit, Pork and Tomatoes.



**Here are a few ways to put more star anise in your diet:

(1)    Use it in soups, stews, and casseroles that require long cooking.

(2)     Put it in the pan when making roast chicken and duck.

(3)    Add it to braising liquid for meats and fish.

(4)    Add star anise to stewed apples or plums.

(5)    Add it to the liquid when poaching chicken or fish.

(6)    Make a rub for poultry or game by combining 2 ground star anise with 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds, 10 black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon of salt. It makes about ยผ cup, enough for a whole bird.



**Star anise is a beautiful, unique spice that is easy to identify due to itsโ€™ star shape. You can purchase the spice either whole, in broken pieces, or ground.

**The star itself (in whole form) is not edible. You either take it out of the dish before serving, or leave it in for aesthetic purposes. However, the powdered form is edible. The seeds are also edible and are often used to sweeten breath and aid digestion after meals. You can grind both the pods and seeds to make the powder.


**When cooking with star anise, use only a small amount of the spice. It has a very strong flavor and too much of it in a dish will be overwhelming and might make your meal bitter.

**Until fairly recently, star anise was considered a luxury spice and was difficult to find. However, today most grocery stores carry it as well as Asian and Indian markets. It is not too expensive and since you only use a bit each time, a small container of it will last a while.

**When you buy it, you can buy it either as whole stars, broken segments, or ground. Any of these options are okay. Whole star anise has a very long storage life and will stay fresh for up to five years if stored in a glass jar, away from sunlight, with an airtight lid. Ground star anise will keep for a year in similar conditions.


How to Grow:Star Anise flower

I have had a difficult time finding information on how to grow star anise. I hope to try it myself someday, and hopefully I will then come through and edit this part of my post. In the meantime, if anyone else knows information on how to grow star anise, I would greatly appreciate it.


Here are some of the facts that I know so far:



**It is a medium-sized evergreen tree of the magnolia family, and can get quite tall if not pruned (26 feet).

**This tree is mainly grown in greenhouses in containers because it cannot handle temperatures lower than 23 degrees Fahrenheit. It will grow happily in containers.


**It requires well-drained soil and partial shade.

**The tree can be propagated by seed. Sow seeds in the spring. It can also be propagated by semi-ripe cuttings that are taken in the summer.


**It grows very slowly and may possibly take 15 years to produce fruit. However, once it starts producing fruit, you can usually get harvests from the tree 3 times a year and it may give you harvests for over 100 years.

**The fruits are harvested before they ripen and then sun dried.


There you go! This is all of the information that I could find about star anise. Please click here for my introduction to my Spice Series.  Again, if you have any comments, questions, or extra information for me, please feel free to post in the comment section below!

Illustration by Christy Beckwith

**(P.S.) Did you notice the amazingly beautiful illustrations by Illustrator Christy Beckwith? Christy Beckwith is a talented illustrator that I know and she offered to help me make my posts more visually creative and original. Please check out her site here or go right to her shop to see her other works.

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    Make a cream of kale sauce for the base sauce, mushrooms and quartered brussels on top. They get roasty and caramelized. SO BOMB!

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