Spice Advice: Star Anise
Native to Southern China and Vietnam, Star Anise is a seed pod from the Illicium plant, a relative of the magnolia tree. Not only is it one of the most visually striking spices, it also has a rich and distinctive aroma we can’t get enough of. The name Illicium even comes from the latin word illicio, or “alluring” because of the delightful scent of the plant. The fleshy fruit itself is a chartreuse, nearly fluorescent green. Once it’s been carefully harvested and sun dried, it undergoes a sort of metamorphosis. Shrinking, drying into a star-like shape, and changing color from its original verdant green to a dull, rusty brown.
These flavourful pods are as beautiful as they are culturally significant. Not just as a culinary pillar across the globe, but also as an integral part of many traditional wellness treatments for thousands of years. They’re naturally super rich in antioxidants as well as being high in iron and vitamins A and C. They’re also packed with shikimic acid, one of the main ingredients in many Western over-the-counter flu treatments. Basically what we’re saying is: these things are seriously good for you!
Pop one into a piping hot mug of black tea with a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of honey for an aromatic, throat-soothing energy boost. Drop one into a bubbling pot of delicious Vietnamese pho broth to add a warm, earthy essence. It’s also been a longtime favorite addition to braising liquid for proteins like pork and chicken. We’ve even been known to simmer one with a cane sugar simple syrup for quick addition to coffee drinks and baked goods! Complimenting both sweet and savory flavours with ease, it’s no wonder this woody little treasure is such a... star? Come on, we had to!