Star anise, sometimes called Chinese star anise, blooms from hearty evergreen trees in the southwest of China, a region that is shielded from the harsh winters of the north. Very similar in flavor to anise, star anise has become a popular and conveniently less expensive substitute in the west, where it's widely used in tea and liquor production. We add just a touch of it in our Chinese Five Spice. Often compared to fennel in flavor, this spice is warm and sweet with a licorice-like taste that's wonderfully cozy in piping hot carrot and squash soups. Simmer star anise in stews and fruit compotes seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg, but remember to remove it before serving.