Illicium verum Syn.
Family : Magnoliaceae
Star anise is the dried fruit of
the Illicium verum, an evergreen tree indigenous to the southeastern
part of China and to Vietnam. Its flavour and uses are similar to
those of anise. It is now grown in Indo-China and Japan. Traditionally
the Japanese used to burn the aromatic bark of the tree as incense.
It has evergreen, aromatic leaves
and bisexual flowers, the inner petals of which grade gradually
into stamens. The flowers are radially symmetrical that lack differentiation
between the outer and inner floral whorls (sepals and petals). The
female portion of the flower consists of 7 to 15 carpels (ovule-bearing
structures), usually in a single whorl. At maturity (after 6 years)
the flower produces a characteristic woody fruit composed of a ring
of several joined pod like follicles, each of which splits open
along one seam to release a single seed. The fruit takes its name
from the star like arrangement of its carpels around a central axis.
The fruits are harvested before they ripen. The dried fruit is about
0.25 to 0.5 cm (0.1 to 0.2 inch) in diameter; individual carpels
are usually about 1 cm in length and contain a single seed. Dried
carpels are hard, rough, and reddish brown; the seeds are smooth,
lustrous, and light brown in colour.
Both the seed and the husk are used
for the ground spice. The dried fruit's essential-oil content is
about 3 percent, and its principal component is anethole.
Culinary, medicinal and other
Star anise is one of the most important
spices in Chinese cuisine. It is also used as a flavouring in alcoholic
drinks. The dried fruits of star anise are the source of oil of
star anise, a volatile, aromatic oil used for flavouring candies,
liqueurs, and perfumes. It is used in cough medicines.