Star anise is the seed pod from the fruit of the Illicium verum plant, an evergreen shrub native to Southwest China. The star anise pod, which is shaped like a star (hence its name), has an average of eight points, each containing a single pea-sized seed. Both the seeds and the pod are used in cooking and contain the sweet, potent anise flavor. It can be used in whole or ground form to add an aromatic licorice flavor to recipes like marinades, soups, broths, and other liquids. A single pod can elevate a batch of homemade tomato sauce, too.