Botanical Name: Illicium Verum

Family: Magnoliaceae

Hindi Name: Anasphal

Best known as the source of potent liquorice-flavoured drinks, like Pernod, Pastis, Cinquante-et-un, anise is popular in French and Chinese cooking.

Anise is star-shaped, and each point has a single grain. The plant is native to China, and the seeds have been used for many centuries in Asian cooking. It is well grown in Laos, the Philippines and Jamaica.

An English sailor is said to have brought anise home to England in the sixteenth century and from there its use spread to France and the rest of Europe.

This evergreen plant is a bush that grows to a height of 5-6 metres. The leaves are 10-15 cms long and 2.5-5 cms broad. These leaves are elliptical and aromatic. The flower has eight carpels which are arranged whorl-like round shore stem. The flowers are white to red in colour.

Besides the regular eight-pointed shape, one rarely finds a single specimen with a larger member of carpels. The essential oil resides in the pericarp, not in the seed. The carpels have a pleasant smell. The plane needs a well-drained ground, plenty of sunshine, and ample protection from strong winds.

The oil extracted from the pods is warm, sweet and aromatic, being colourless or pale yellow. The dried fruits may contain 5-8 percent of essential oil, anethole being the dominant component. The fruit pods are always used in a dried state.

Its composition is as follows

  • Total fat: 1.1 gm
  • Saturated fat: 0.0 gm
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 1 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.4 gm
  • Dietary Fibre: 1.0 gm
  • Protein: 1.2 gm
  • Calcium: 43.2 gm
  • Potassium: 96.5 mg

Anise is used in flavouring alcohols and liquors, such as Vermouth and Marie Brizard. It is often used to flavour toothpaste, along with several other mouth-wash and breath-freshening products. It is used in confectioneries, chewing gum, perfumery, curries, and for pickling.

Various techniques for cooking, cutting and flavouring have been developed in China. While in Shanghai anise is widely used as an indispensable spice in the red braising technique of preparing master sauce, in the cool mountain areas, the hot Sichuan style of cooking makes use of anise, orange peel, cassia and even local plants, besides chillies.

In North Vietnam, it is popularly used for beef soups, while the Thais employ it in long-simmered stews, and to flavour icedtea. Anise plays a significant role in Iranian and Pakistani cuisine, as also in some North Indian cookery.

In India, it is now hardly ever used except in the palaces of sultans still adhering to a royal Indian cooking style.

Anise is used as a stimulant, expectorant and a diuretic. As carminative it is useful in digestion, flatulence, dysentery, spasms, colic and constipation. The oil is beneficial for those afflicted with rheumatism or ataligia, and is also useful as an antiseptic. Nowadays, many people use it in an infusion for herbal tea, lacing the tea with honey.

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