Pronunciation: [AN-ihss]

Known as far back as at least 1500 B.C., this small annual plant is a member of the parsley family. Both the leaves and seed have a distinctive sweet licorice flavor. The greenish-brown oval anise seed perfumes and flavors a variety of confections as well as savory dishes. It's also used to flavor drinks such as pastis, arrack, anisette and ouzo. Anise seeds have been used as a digestive for centuries, and in India they're chewed after a meal not only for digestion but to sweeten breath. Anise seed plays an important role in the cooking of Southeast Asia. Chinese cooks are more likely to use star anise than the seed.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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Katie's Healthy Bites: Discovering Star Anise

Spices are an important factor in healthy cooking, since they have the power to add abundant flavor without adding calories. Widen your spice-cabinet horizons this week with the unique flavor of star anise. This spice's shape emulates a star with 5-10 pointed tips radiating from a central seed pod. Rust colored with a tough texture, star anise comes from an aromatic evergreen tree. It can be purchase whole or ground and its licorice-like taste, is similar to but more pungent than its anise cousin.

Spice of the Month: Star Anise

This spice is known for its distinctive licorice flavor; use it in sweet and savory recipes like stir-fry or baked goods.

Star Anise — Off the Beaten Aisle

Star anise is the fruit — yes, fruit — of an evergreen tree native to southern China (where most of it still is produced).

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