Saturday, February 26, 2011

Illicium verum - Star Anise

Illicium verum, Star anise, also called Star Aniseed, or Chinese Star Anise, Anise Stars, Badain, Badiana, is a spice that closely resembles anise in flavor, obtained from a small native evergreen tree from southwest China. The star shaped fruits are harvested just before ripening.  Star Anise and Anise (Pimpinella anisum) are not related botanically - star anise is a member of the Magnolia family.

Star Anise has come into use in the West as a less expensive substitute for anise in baking as well as in liquor production, most distinctively in the production of the liquor Galliano. It is also used in the production of sambuca, pastis, and many types of absinthe. Star anise enhances the flavour of meat.  It is widely used in Chinese, Indian and Indonesian cuisine.  It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia.  Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking.  It is also a major ingredient in the making of phở, a Vietnamese noodle soup

Star anise has been used in a tea as a remedy for rheumatism, and the seeds are sometimes chewed after meals to aid digestion.  Like anise, star anise is an anti-flatulent and can be used in a decoction as a diuretic. 

Star anise is also the raw ingredient used to make oseltamivir, more familiarly known as Tamiflu which is an antiviral drug used in treating the bird flu virus.

CAUTION:  The FDA has stated that consumption of Star Anise tea can cause some nasty side effects.  Among these side effects are jitteriness, hyperexcitability, vomiting, rapid eye movement, epi-gastric pains and seizures.   Japanese Star Anise (Illicium anisatum), a similar tree, is not edible because it is highly toxic, however, the pounded bark can be used as incense.

In folkore Star anise is carried for luck and burnt for clairvoyance and to increase psychic awareness.  Place Star anise under your pillow at night to keep bad dreams away and also to dream of someone far away.  It is a great herb to be used on the new moon because of it's dark color.  The Japanese plant the tree in their temples and on tombs.

Propagate by semi-ripe cuttings taken in summer, or by seed. Star anise requires moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil and partial shade. It grows very slowly and may take 15 years from planting to produce fruit.  Once it begins fruiting, however, it is usually possible to harvest from the tree 3 times a year, and fruiting may continue for over 100 years.   It should be possible to germinate seeds you get from the spice store.  Nick the seeds and soak them in warm water, the seed requires a temperature of 70°F to germinate.

1 comment:

Freddy L. said...

Unfortunately, you cannot germinate seeds from the spice store. They are irradiated, heated, and processed in other ways that render them non-viable. They are also shipped and stored in conditions that are not favorable for seeds that are to be grown. Furthermore, star anise fruits are harvested prematurely, then left to dry; when they fully ripen naturally, the seeds are ejected from the capsules. So even under appropriate conditions, they still may not even be fully mature and viable.(Despite this, I've tried several times with no success.)