Star anise is the seed pod from the fruit of the Illicium verum plant, an evergreen shrub native to Southwest China. This plant grows in Grenada and St Lucia.
The star anise pod, which is shaped like a star (hence its name), has an average of eight points, each containing a single pea-sized seed. Both the seeds and the pod are used in cooking and contain the sweet, potent anise flavor. Star anise is sold whole and ground.
What Does It Taste Like?
Star anise has a very strong, distinct flavor that is warm, sweet, and spicy, similar to licorice, fennel seed, clove, and anise seed, of course. Although the flavor of star anise is generally thought of as sweet, it is commonly used in savory dishes; it pairs well with citrus, onions, poultry, beef, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and should be used in small quantities.