The scientific name star anise Illicium verum belongs to the family of Illiciaceae.
It is a shrub 4-5 meters high with white bark and persistent, glossy leaves that recall those of the magnolia.
THE flowers they are large and very characteristic of great decorative value. Their characteristic is that each ovary has eight carpels which together form the eight-pointed star-shaped fruit (hence the name of "star anise") which opens when ripe, letting out the seed.
Its habitat is southern China and northern Vietnam and was introduced to Europe in the late 1600s.
Properties: digestive and eupeptic.
The fruit shell contains anethole which gives it its characteristic aroma.
USED PARTS OF THE PLANT
Parts used: the fruits (improperly called seeds) that are collected still green and dried in the sun, becoming brown-reddish in color.
In oriental cuisine it is widely used as a flavoring to flavor especially meat dishes. In Western cuisine it is mostly used as an aroma for sweets and for the production of liqueurs (anisette).
It is part of the famous ingredients five Chinese spices (anise, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and pepper) very spicy and with a strong taste.
HOW TO USE IT
Star anise seeds are steam distilled to extract essential oils with their characteristic aroma.
The seeds and essence are used in cooking to flavor foods.
It owes its name to the star shape that characterizes the fruit whose eight branches open when ripe, each releasing a seed.
Star anise is also called anise from Siberia as it was introduced into Europe via Russia around 1694.
Other common names are Chinese star anise is badian.
The essence of star anise in large doses can be toxic especially if it has not been stored properly, that is to say in hermetically sealed containers in the dark.
There is another type of anise, thestar anise bastard or Japanese anise or shikimi whose scientific name is Illicium religiosum Sieb (photo below) which is a toxic plant, native to Japan. The fruits (seeds) are very similar to those of the starfish only smaller and rounder and with the seeds equipped with a small hook.
These fruits contain several toxins and essential oils with amazing and neurotoxic activity which make these seeds highly toxic.
Since there have been cases of intoxication in several European countries it is recommended to use only star anise of certain and certified origin.Note
1. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 internationl license by Sanjay Acharya;
2. Image licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal license by Daderot