Star anise – Spice Garden
Star anise (Illicium verum) is a medium-sized evergreen tree, growing up to 5-10 m tall. It has large glossy green foliage, its white flowers are beautiful and of great decorative value. Star anise fruit has eight carpels that together form the star-shaped fruit, hence it is called “Star anise”.
Species: I. verum
Scientific Name: Illicium verum Hook.f.
Synonyms: Illicium san-ki Perr.
Common Names: Star anise, Star anise seed, Chinese star anise, or Badiane
How to grow and maintain Star anise (Illicium verum):
It thrives best in bright, indirect sunlight to dappled shade, too much direct sunlight could burn the plant.
It grows well in humus and compost-rich. Soil texture should be loamy and well-drained. Slightly acidic to the neutral soil is optimal.
Water regularly during the summer and spring. keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. You can allow the topsoil to become slightly dry between each watering. Reduce water in the winter.
It prefers average temperatures 65 degrees Fahrenheit – 70 degrees Fahrenheit / 18 degrees Celsius – 21 degrees Celsius. Never let your star anise plant outdoors if the temperature falls below 15 degrees Celsius.
Spread a 3-inch layer of compost or aged manure on the ground surrounding the tree in the spring. This is the only fertilizer it requires. If the soil is poor, apply slow-release fertilizer all-purpose fertilizer in the spring.
When the plant is the young, pinch and prune it if you want to make it bushier. There are no special pruning requirements. However, you can always prune off dead, diseased, and weak branches.
Star anise can be easily propagated by seeds or cuttings. Seeds are propagated best when temperatures range from 65 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 20 degrees Celsius). You can sow seeds in pots or directly outside.
Star anise tree takes at least 6 years to fruit if grown from seeds. These fruits (wrongly called seeds) are picked unripe while they are still green, later on, these fruits are sun-dried until their color change to reddish-brown, seeds can be removed once the fruits are ready to be stored.
Pests and Diseases:
It has no serious pest or disease problems. Star anise itself has antibacterial and pest repellent properties.
Benefits of Star anise (Illicium verum):
- Star Anise is widely used in Asian cuisines to flavor dishes especially meat and curries. It contains anethole, the same compound that gives the unrelated anise its flavor. Recently, 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 liqueur Galliano. It enhances the flavor of the meat.
- It is also used in desserts and beverages. It is used as a spice in the preparation of biryani and masala chai all over the Indian subcontinent. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, and in Malay and Indonesian cuisines. 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 Vietnamese noodle soup.
- It is also used in the French recipe of mulled wine, called vin chaud (hot wine). If allowed to steep in coffee, it deepens and enriches the flavor. The pods can be used in this manner multiple times by the pot-full or cup, as the ease of extraction of the taste components increases with the permeation of hot water.
- Star anise oil is a highly fragrant oil used in cooking, perfumery, soaps, toothpaste, mouthwashes, and skin creams.
- While growing star anise, don’t confuse it with Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) or “Shikimi,” which is a similar tree, and is highly toxic and inedible; in Japan, it has instead been burned as incense. Cases of illness, including “serious neurological effects, such as seizures”, reported after using star anise tea, maybe a result of deliberate economically motivated adulteration with this species. Japanese star anise contains the neurotoxin anisatin, which also causes severe inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis), urinary tract, and digestive organs when ingested. Its seeds or fruits are somewhat similar to those of star anise and are only slightly smaller and look like cardamom, having a more rounded shape and have a small hook.
- Swamp star anise Illicium parviflorum is a similar tree found in the Southern United States, and due to its toxicity, it should not be used for folk remedies or as a cooking ingredient.