How to grow star anise from seed?

Contents

What Is Star Anise: Tips On How To Grow Star Anise

Star anise (Illicium verum) is a tree related to the magnolia and its dried fruits are used in many international cuisines. Star anise plants can only be grown in United States Department of Agriculture zones 8 to 10, but for northern gardeners, it is still fun to learn about a unique and flavorful plant. There are many star anise uses too, both for scent and flavor. Read on to learn how to grow star anise in suitable areas and find out how to use this amazing spice.

What is Star Anise?

Star anise plants are fast growing evergreen trees, occasionally up to 26 feet but usually smaller with a spread of 10 feet. The fruit is a spice that smells a bit like licorice. The tree is native to southern China and northern Vietnam where its fruit is used heavily in the regional cuisine. The spice was first introduced to Europe in the 17th century and used whole, powdered or extracted into an oil.

They have lance-shaped olive green leaves and cup-shaped, soft yellow blooms. The leaves

have a licorice scent when crushed but they aren’t the part of the tree used in cuisine. The fruit is star shaped (from which its name derives), green when under ripe and brown and woody when ripe. It is composed of 6 to 8 carpels, each of which contains a seed. Fruits are harvested when still green and dried in the sun.

Note: Illicium verum is the most commonly harvested, but is not to be confused with Illicium anisatum, a Japanese plant in the family, which is toxic.

How to Grow Star Anise

Star anise makes an excellent hedge or standalone plant. It has no tolerance for frost and cannot be grown in the north.

Star anise requires full sun to partial shade in almost any soil type. In warmer climates, growing star anise in full shade is also an option. It prefers slightly acidic soil and needs consistent moisture. Compost or well-rotted manure is all the fertilizer this plant needs.

Pruning can be done to maintain size but is not necessary. That said, growing star anise as a hedge requires trimming and keeping the fast-growing tree short to avoid excess maintenance. Whenever the tree is cut, it releases a spicy fragrance.

Star Anise Uses

The spice is used in meat and poultry dishes as well as confections. It is one of the main ingredients in the traditional Chinese seasoning, five spice. The sweet scent is a perfect pairing with rich duck and pork dishes. In Vietnamese cooking, it is a main seasoning for the “pho” broth.

Western uses are generally confined to preserves and anise flavored liqueurs, such as anisette. Star anise is also used in many curry concoctions, for both its flavor and scent.

Star anise is 10 times sweeter than sugar due to the presence of the compound anethole. The flavor is compared to licorice with a hint of cinnamon and clove. As such, it is used in breads and cakes. A traditional Czechoslovakian bread, vanocka, was made around Easter and Christmas.

Home Grown Star Anise

posted by Jaden

A lovely reader sent a package of his homegrown star anise spice. Have you ever used star anise before?

Normally, when I buy them at the Asian market, they look like they’ve been picked through – none of the “stars” even resemble stars. Upon opening the bag, there is a dusty, musty smell.

Not these.

These are fresh and dried star anise from Greg’s yard. Did you know star anise is actually an immature fruit that’s dried?

Greg says that the star anise tree (it’s a tree!), kept low and trimmed, make wonderful hedges. When you cut the hedges, it releases an amazing, spicy, warm fragrance. I think I’ll take the seeds and plant them in my front yard, what a wonderful way to welcome our friends (and the UPS guy) to house!

I’ve just learned this pod’s folklore, “Place Star anise under your pillow at night to keep bad dreams away and also to dream of someone far away,” says Growing Hermioine’s Garden.

The green fruit will dry to become the nutty-brown star anise spice that we use in Chinese cooking. Greg included instructions with his care package: Dry in a ventilated screen or it will mold. Also cover with the green pods with some kind of cloth or paper, because as the pods dry, they will SHOOT the seeds out!

How fun! I really want to see the shooting seeds. Maybe I’ll have to stage a camera in front of the drying pods and catch it shooting seeds!

I’ll have to report back on our progress in growing the seeds. In my research, I’ve found out that the “Illicium verum” is of the magnolia tree family. Here in the U.S., it grows nicely as a small to medium, spreading evergreen tree in zones 9 and 10 (it doesn’t do well in below freezing temperatures.)

Cooking with Star Anise

The Homestead Garden states that, “This spice has a savory-sweet flavor to it, often compared to licorice with a slight cinnamon and clove taste. It has a large quantity of a chemical called anethole, which makes star anise 13 times sweeter than sugar.”

The spice is quite strong, only 1 or 2 star anise is needed to flavor an entire pot of stew. Star anise is also a component of Chinese 5-Spice Powder.

Here’s something interesting from The Epicentre, “Star anise pairs brilliantly with tomatoes. It’s licorice-like flavor actually bears a close resemblance to that of fennel and basil, tomato’s classic companions. A single pod of star anise adds a new level of flavour to a tomato-based sauce or stew with a warm, spicy undertone. The same goes for braised beef dishes – from stews to chili to oxtail soup, star anise can be the secret ingredient that elevates the dish to a whole new level.”

I’ve never tried star anise with tomatoes, but I think the next batch of tomato sauce will be an experiment with a star or two thrown in.

Here are a few recipes I’ve made using star anise!

Vietnamese Pho

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Chinese Boiled Peanuts

Taiwanese Pork Noodles

posted in Featured, Grow, Ingredient

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.

Star Anise: Benefits, Uses and Potential Risks

Star anise has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and has also been accepted into some Western medicine practices more recently.

Its rise in popularity is largely driven by its antimicrobial properties and pharmacological potential.

Antiviral Capabilities

One of the most popular pharmacologically relevant attributes of star anise is its shikimic acid content.

Shikimic acid is a compound with strong antiviral capabilities. In fact, it’s one of the main active ingredients in Tamiflu, a popular medication for the treatment of influenza (7).

Currently, star anise is the primary source of shikimic acid used for pharmaceutical product development. As the influenza pandemic continues to mount as a threat to global health, the demand for star anise is on the rise (7).

Some test-tube research has also shown that the essential oil of star anise may treat other types of viral infections, including herpes simplex type 1 (8).

Though star anise is frequently used for treating influenza, more research is needed to further understand its potential to treat other viral infections in humans.

Antifungal Properties

Star anise is a rich source of the flavonoid anethole. This compound is responsible for the spice’s distinct flavor and offers potent antifungal benefits.

Some agricultural research has found that trans-anethole derived from star anise may inhibit the growth of pathogenic fungi in certain edible crops (9).

Test-tube research indicates that other bioactive compounds found in star anise essential oil, like terpene linalool, may suppress biofilm and cell wall formation of infectious fungi in humans (10).

More research is needed to better understand the applications for star anise to treat fungal infections in humans.

Antibacterial Benefits

Another important medicinal benefit of star anise is its ability to inhibit bacterial growth implicated in a variety of common illnesses.

Some research has revealed that star anise extract is as effective as antibiotics against multiple drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria. This may be particularly useful for future development of new antibiotic medications (11).

Test-tube studies have also shown that bioactive compounds in star anise may be effective in treating urinary tract infections caused by different bacteria (12).

A separate study revealed star anise extract to be somewhat effective in reducing the growth of E. coli on a petri dish, though it wasn’t as effective as current, more common antibiotic treatments (13).

At this time, most research on the antibacterial properties of star anise is limited to animal and test-tube studies. More studies are needed to better understand how this spice may be used to support human health.

Summary Star anise has been useful in the medical realm for treating a variety of fungal, bacterial and viral infections.

Learn how to grow star anise in this article. Star anise is a spice widely used in South East Asian cuisines. Growing star anise is easy in subtropical climates. It is adorned with beautiful flowers and fruits that are star-shaped.

USDA Zones— 8 – 11

Difficulty— Moderate

Other Names— Anis de Chine, Anís Estrellado, Anis Étoilé, Anis Étoilé Chinois, Aniseed Stars, Anisi Stellati Fructus, Ba Jiao Hui, Badiana, Badiane, Badiane de Chine, Bajiao, Chinese Anise, Chinese Star Anise, Eight-Horned Anise, Eight Horns, and Illicium verum.

It belongs to the family of Illiciaceae, dicotyledonous angiosperm species. It is a tropical evergreen tree, tall between 5-10 m. Star anise 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 called “Star anise”).

Propagation

Star anise is propagated by seeds or cuttings. How to grow star anise from seed: Seeds are propagated best when temperature range from 65 – 70 F (18 – 20 C). You can sow seeds in pots or directly outside.

Water the seeds frequently to keep the soil moist and make sure the pot has drainage holes in the bottom to drain excess water.

Growing Condition

Star anise is native to Vietnam and China and grows in the warm subtropical climate. It is a frost tender perennial. Star anise only grows in areas where the temperature does not fall below 15 F (-10 C). If you live in a cooler area below USDA Zone 9, plant star anise in a container so that you can keep it in a greenhouse or indoors in winter.

Requirements for Growing Star Anise

Position

Star anise requires dappled shade, partial sun but if you’re growing star anise in a much cooler climate, plant it in a warm and sunny location. Choose a position in a way that it is not exposed to cold and dry winds.

Soil

Provide soil that is humus and compost rich. Soil texture should be loamy and well drained. Slightly acidic to the neutral soil is optimal.

Watering

For growing star anise, do regular watering and keep the soil slightly moist but reduce the watering in winter.

Star Anise Care

Fertilizer

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.

Pruning

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.

Harvest

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

There are not any specific pest or disease that bothers it. Star anise itself has antibacterial and pest repellent properties.

Star Anise is widely used in Asian cuisines to flavor dishes especially meat and curries. It is also used in desserts and beverages. Together with fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and pepper it is considered as one of the “Five Chinese Spice”, used for its strong taste and spicy flavor. It is an essential part of Chinese cuisines and also used in a variety of Indian recipes. It’s an addition to other popular Indian spices makes a special spicy ingredient, which is called “Garam masala”.

Warnings

While growing star anise, don’t confuse it with Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) or “Shikimi,” which is a poisonous plant and native to Japan. Its seeds or fruits are somewhat similar to those of star anise and are only slightly smaller and looks like cardamom, having a more rounded shape and have a small hook.

*This article is dedicated to Illicium verum (Real star anise), don’t confuse it with Pimpinella anisum (Anise), Illicium anisatum (Japanese star anise), a poisonous plant or Illicium parviflorum (Swamp star anise).

Star Anise: Shapely Spice

Star anise is a spice that comes from an evergreen tree native to southwest China. The Chinese have used it for thousands of years as both a culinary spice and a medicine. Its pods are shapely with eight arms, and this was believed to signify “good luck.” The spice was introduced to Europe in 1578 by English navigator Sir Thomas Cavendish. He brought star anise to Europe via the Philippines, causing many Europeans believe that the Philippines was where it originated. The spice’s use in Europe was limited mainly to desserts and liqueurs. Star anise has been in use in Russia since the 17th century and in Germany since the 18th.

Star anise flavor profile

The flavor of star anise is widely described as having the same licorice notes found in fennel and anise with star anise being the most pungent of the three. Its spicy and sweet flavors intensify during cooking, so much so that it can leave a bitter aftertaste if too much of it is used. It is important to note that the pods are more flavorful than the seeds when whole but broken pods quickly lose their flavor.

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Health benefits of star anise

  • It is Rich in shikimic acid. Star anise is the main source of a compound called shikimic acid. When used in combination with quercetin, shikimic acid has been shown to bolster the immune system to make it better able to fight off viruses. Shikimic acid is used in the production of Oseltamivir, which is marketed as Tamiflu.
  • It protects against candidiasis. Anethole and other extracts from star anise are effective against Candida Albicans, a type of fungus. Candidiasis is the unchecked growth of candida albicans, which is a part of the gut flora and lives in the mouth and throat. It can cause systemic fungal infections in people with compromised immune systems.
  • It is an antibacterial agent. Star anise is effective against bacteria, including bacteria known to be resistant to antibiotics. Just like its antifungal properties, the antibacterial properties are largely due to its anethole content. Anethole is also found in other spices such as licorice and aniseed.
  • It aids digestion. In traditional Chinese medicine, one of the uses for star anise is as a treatment for digestive problems. The spice can be used to treat bloating, flatulence and indigestion.
  • It is an antioxidant. Star anise contains multiple polyphenolic compounds that fight inflammation. There are also flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin along with various phenolic compounds that are effective antioxidants.

When considering star anise for its health benefits, it is important to note the difference between Chinese star anise (Illicium verum) and Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum). The two are related, but the Japanese version is highly toxic.

Common uses for star anise

Star anise is one of the spices found in many of the Chinese five spice powder blends used throughout Asia. In Vietnam, it is the main flavor in beef Pho and in Thailand it is used to flavor iced teas. In Europe, star anise is used in many anise liqueurs such as sambuca and anisette. It is also an effective complement to the spices traditionally used for baking throughout Europe and North America. It can be combined with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves for use in classic baked goods like apple pie and gingerbread.

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Star Anise

Native to China and Vietnam, star anise is today grown almost exclusively in southern China, Indo-China, and Japan. Star anise, Illicium verum, is sometimes called Chinese star anise. It’s important to distinguish it from Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum, which is highly toxic. Star anise is not related to the common anise, Anisum vulgare. It was first introduced into Europe in the seventeenth century. The oil, produced by a process of steam extraction, is substituted for European aniseed in commercial drinks.

Spice Description

Star anise is the unusual fruit of a small oriental tree. It is, as the name suggests, star shaped, radiating between five and ten pointed boat-shaped sections, about eight on average. These hard sections are seed pods. Tough skinned and rust coloured, they measure up to 3cm (1-1/4”) long. The fruit is picked before it can ripen, and dried. The stars are available whole, or ground to a red-brown powder.
Bouquet: Powerful and liquorice-like, more pungent and stronger than anise.
Flavour: Evocative of a bitter aniseed, of which flavour star anise is a harsher version. Nervertheless, the use of star anise ensures an authentic touch in the preparation of certain Chinese dishes.
Hotness Scale: 3

Preparation and Storage

The whole stars can be added directly to the cooking pot; pieces are variously referred to as segments, points and sections. Otherwise, grind the whole stars as required. Small amounts are used, as the spice is powerful. Stored whole in airtight containers, it keeps for well over a year.

Cooking with Star Anise

Star anise is used in the East as aniseed is in the West. Apart from its use in sweetmeats and confectionery, where sweeteners must be added, it contributes to meat and poultry dishes, combining especially well with pork and duck.

In Chinese red cooking, where the ingredients are simmered for a lengthy period in dark soy sauce, star anise is nearly always added to beef and chicken dishes. Chinese stocks and soups very often contain the spice.. It flavours marbled eggs, a decorative Chinese hors d’oeuvre or snack. Mandarins with jaded palates chew the whole dried fruit habitually as a post-prandial digestant and breath sweetener – an oriental comfit.

In the West, star anise is added in fruit compotes and jams, and in the manufacture of anise-flavoured liqueurs, the best known being anisette.

It is an ingredient of the mixture known as “Chinese Five Spice”.

Star anise pairs brilliantly with tomatoes. It’s licorice-like flavor actually bears a close resemblance to that of fennel and basil, tomato’s classic companions. A single pod of star anise adds a new level of flavour to a tomato-based sauce or stew with a warm, spicy undertone. The same goes for braised beef dishes – from stews to chili to oxtail soup, star anise can be the secret ingredient that elevates the dish to a whole new level.

Substitute For Star Anise

Substitute fennel seed common anise or equal amounts of Chinese five spice powder.

Health Benefits of Star Anise

Like anise, star anise has carminative, stomachic, stimulant and diuretic properties. In the East it is used to combat colic and rheumatism. It is a common flavouring for medicinal teas, cough mixtures and pastilles.

In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is prescribed as an digestive aid, promoting health of female reproductive organs and for lactating mothers to increase breast-milk secretion. It is used to promote appetite, to treat abdominal pain, digestive disturbances including colic, complaints caused by cold weather such as lumbago, and to relieve flatulence.

The anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of star anise is useful in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and dry cough. For this reason, some cough mixtures contain star anise extract.

Star anise, in its natural form, can help the body’s immune system fight off many strains of flu, as well as many other health challenges. Shikimic acid, a compound present in star anise is used for preparing drug for curing influenza or the flu virus. Star anise can also be used as for its sedating properties to ensure a good sleep.

The oil of star anise is useful in providing relief from rheumatism and lower back pain. Star anise can also be used as a natural breath freshener. Linalool, a compound present in star anise contains anti-oxidants properties

Plant Description

A small to medium evergreen tree of the magnolia family, reaching up to 8m (26ft). The leaves are lanceolate and the axillary flowers are yellow. The tree is propagated by seed and mainly cultivated in China and Japan for export and home markets. the fruits are harvested before they ripen, then sun dried.

Growing Star Anise

If you want grow star anise, sow seeds in spring under cover and pot on, growing on in the greenhouse until at least the following year. Plant out into the most sheltered spot you can find, as it cannot take temperatures lower than about -5 C (23 F). Alternatively you could try growing it in a container, which can be moved under cover when the weather is too cold. It is a small tree, but many trees grow happily in containers.

Other names

Anise Stars, Badain, Badiana, Chinese Anise

Scientific Name

Illicium verum syn: I. anisatum F
am: Magnoliaceae

Recipes using Star Anise

Marbled Eggs

Red Cooked Beef

Braised Chicken In Potato Mold

Sweet Tamarind Drink

Star Anise is included in our Asian Spice Collection.

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