This pungent, sweet spice is actually the fruit of an evergreen tree in the Magnolia family. Although it is native to the south and southwest regions of China and North Vietnam, star anise is also grown in India, Japan and the Philippines. Our star anise is sourced from China.
Star anise trees do not bear fruit until they are six years old, however they are able to keep producing for up to 100 years. The fruit of the tree is harvested when green and allowed to dry in the sun, during which time the stars turn their distinctive dark brown color and their characteristic aroma and flavor fully develops. Star anise can be kept for three to five years if stored in its whole seed form in an air-tight container away from heat, light and humidity extremes.
This unique spice has a powerful licorice aroma and flavor and creates a warm, mild numbing effect in the mouth. Star anise pairs well with fruit and is often used to poach fruit in conjunction with cinnamon and cloves. It also works well in baked goods, chilled deserts, sauces, soups, and stews. Star anise is one of the signature flavors of Chinese savory cooking and is the main ingredient in Chinese Five Spice. Add a few to pork spare ribs or a hotpot for a pleasing result. Avoid adding too many stars however, as their pungent flavor will quickly overwhelm a dish.