Star anise, namely Illicium verum, is recognized for its pungent aroma and widely used for culinary purposes

Star anise is the unusually shaped star-like fruit of an oriental tree that is indigenous to China and Vietnam. The fruit is composed of five to ten brownish lancet-shaped seedpods, radiating from the central stem. Star anise is used for similar purposes as aniseed; its flavor is also very evocative of the aniseed, but still a bit stronger. Since Ilicium verum is a very powerful spice, only small amounts of the whole dried fruit are added during the process of cooking. It is also possible to use the herb ground to a red-brown powder.
The name of this unusual spice is very suggestive of its shape. It is obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of Illicium verum. The genus name Illicium traces its origin to the Latin word "illicere" which translates as "allure". It is more than likely due to the appealing fragrance of the herb. Seven species of the Illicium genus are knownare known. Many of the species are characterized by pronounced aromatic qualities. Star anise is very abundant in Southeastern Asia, however due to its specific characteristics it is widely cultivated in many subtropical countries. It was first introduced to Europe in the seventeenth century and is now popular as a substitute for aniseed in European commercial drinks due to the fact that the star anise fruits contain the same essential oil as aniseeds.

Star anise is extensively used for culinary purposes and is an especially popular spice in China. Chinese cuisine is a very sophisticated one and has an ancient tradition of star anise implementation. This is one of the countries in the world with the most developed and multifarious culinary techniques, where spices possess very important features in the whole Chinese culinary picture. Anise is also used in the Persian, Indian and Pakistani cuisine. It was also introduced to Indonesia, but was hardly used there anymore, except for certain places that remain faithful to the Royal Indian cooking style. However, outside of China star anise is considerably less popular. A few of its most common culinary applications are: in beef soup (Vietnam), simmering stews (the North), ice tea (tropical South).

In the western region, the use of star anise is not very extensive. It can be stored and obtained in the ground or unground form. It is regarded as an efficient substitute for star anise and is widely used in this quality for mulled wine and liqueur production. It can also be traced in desserts giving them wonderful aroma. However, one should be very cautious of the Japanese star anise, which is a quite similar plant, but the fruit of which are highly toxic. After the use of this dangerous herb serious health disorders have been reported.

As far a star anise proper is concerned, it is used not only for culinary purposes, but it can also be chewed after the meal to help digestion. In the East star anise is also known to be an efficient remedy for colic and rheumatism as a tea component.

Although star anise has a very strong seasoning action, dosed properly it can considerably improve the odor and flavor of foods. But apart from useful attribute this pungent herb also has carminative, stimulant, and diuretic properties and is used for numerous medicinal purposes.

It is very commonly applied for flavoring medicinal teas, cough mixtures and pastilles. In homeopathy star anise can serve for the production of tincture.

Despite all of star anise's useful applications the lion part of its reputation is attributed to the fact that it is one of the ingredients of the famous "Chinese Five Spices".
This artilce has been viewed: 4 times this month, and 547 times in total since published.