Vietnam Star Anise Story

Star anise (Illicium verum Hook) grows as dark brown pods with eight segments, each containing a pea-sized seed. This spice hails from an evergreen tree plant that is native to southern China and northeast Vietnam, although it is cultivated in countries like Laos, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.It grows well in humus rich, mildly acidic to neutral soils, which are light to medium and having good drainage. That is why Vietnam is well-known as an ideal homeland for this spice helping it become one of the two biggest producers of star anise in the world other than China mainland.The tree is currently cultivated mainly in the northern borders namely Lang Son and Quang Ninh provinces. Somes small areas of star anise have been got at Cao Bang and Bac Can provinces.The annual output of star anise fruits in Vietnam reaches about 5,500-6,000 tons in which about 3,000 tons are for export and 100 tons are extracted for essential attar. According to statistics the total area of anise plantation has reached 44.606 ha, including 37.069 ha concentrated and 7.537 ha scattered, so far.Being a charm of Vietnam star anise is a feast for the eyes and a delight to the nose. Its sharp fresh flavor is found in many dishes and pastries, as well as in anisette and other enjoyable beverages around the Mediterranean Basin. Their white or pinkish blossoms yield a star-shaped fruit. Each star contains a very fragrant, dark red oval seed.The anise fruit is picked from 8-10 year old trees. There are two harvests per year. The main one is from September to November and the later is from March to May. The main crop gives more fruits, oil content and size are also better than the later one. The older the tree the more fruits it produces. After picking the fruit is dried under a temperature from 30 to 40 Celsius degree. Its color then changes from green to dark brown, forming star-shapes and exposing shiny yellow brown seeds. The stems of the anise plant, which have the same characteristic flavor as the seeds, are eaten as a vegetable. The seeds are processed and used in a number of food products for seasoning including cakes, candy, cheese, cookies, breads, pickles, stews, fish and shellfish etc. Broken star anise pieces are used in pickling, curry or stir fry. Powdered star anise is great for baking and essential for many Asian recipes, duck and pork as instance. In the West, the oil produced by steam extraction of star anise is a flavor added to some wines. It is also a flavor in desserts and baked foods. In traditional medicine, star anise is a digestive, stimulant and a remedy for intestinal cramps. Besides many other uses to human life, in the modern medicine star anise is a key ingredient to produce a special drug called Taminflue – the exclusive remedy help people prevent bird flu disease.