Star anise starts as a fibrous green fruit with a tart, underripe-peach flavor, and turns into the woody red-brown spice as it dries.
Our star anise is picked by hand in the mountains near the border between Vietnam and China, grown by our partner farmer Chu Thi How and her cousin Hoang Thi Keo. They have a beautiful flavor and aroma perfect for both sweet and savory dishes. Add petals to stocks, braised meats, rice, teas and cocktails, or grind them up for desserts and baked goods.
Our star anise is grown by members of the Muong ethnic group in north-eastern Vietnam. We work with two cousins, who are the owners of a vertically-integrated star anise company, growing the fruits on their own farm as well as buying fresh fruit from their neighbors, and setting up a drying facility on the hill behind their home. Everything that they grow gets shipped to China (the border is only about 15 miles away), but we're now their first and only US partner.
The winter star anise harvest typically has lower yields and smaller fruits than the summer harvest, but it produces individual fruits that are stronger in flavor and have a higher essential oil content. The fruits grow on tall, straight trees and are green when they're picked, then turn brown as they dry.
The drying process (a few hours over a wood fire in winter before being sun-dried) concentrates the natural sweetness of the fruit and highlights the rich, nutty licorice essence.