Herbs and spices of Provence
Latin: illicum verum
Best known as the source of Pastis, Pernod, Cinquante-et-Un (51) and other potent licorice-flavored drinks, anise is also popular in French cooking.
The French name Anis étoilé, or Star Anis, describes the star-shape of the eight little aniseed fruit pods from the anise plant, each containing a single grain. Oil extracted from the plant by distillation is used as flavoring and in medicine.
The plant originated in China, and the seeds have been used for many centuries in Asian cooking. An English sailor is said to have brought anis home to England in the 16th century, and from there its use spread to France and the rest of Europe.
The badianier plant is a bush that grows to 5-6 m high. The leaves are elliptical, persistent and aromatic. It has large yellow or purple flowers. For growing it needs well-drained ground, sunshine and protection from the elements.
Many a French fisherman has brought home dinner thanks to the fish's fondness for the strong flavor of anis. One popular indirect method is to soak a bit of bread in Pastis (or another of your favorite anise-based drinks) and use that for bait. It's acceptable of course to have wee nip before you put the bottle away.
Anis flavoring is used in curry powder and in alcohols and liqueurs, such as Vermouth and Marie Brizard as well as those mentioned above.
A medicinal use in the opinion of children, anis is often used to flavor toothpaste along with several other mouth-wash and breath-freshening products.
Anis is good for digestion and calming the stomach when used in an infusion (herbal tea), and a bit of honey makes a good natural sweetener.