In Season Now: Fennel

Fennel is a vegetable that I have learned to love over the years.   Its licorice-like flavor is unusual in a vegetable and took some getting used to for a person who really doesn’t care for licorice.   Now, however, I appreciate it and look forward to using the crisp bulb and feathery fronds in savory dishes.   It accompanies celery root marvelously well.

Family: Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) offers many varieties including wild versions.

Origin: Fennel is native to Europe and the Mediterranean, and it holds a dear place in Greek and Roman mythology where it plays a role in the legends of Prometheus and Bacchus.

The Season: Autumn through early Spring.

Appearance: Fennel is identified by a white bulb with fine pale-green lines, a lengthy green stalk and feathery green fronds.

Nutritional Benefits: Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is a result of anethole – the component in fennel, anise and licorice that has been shown to suppress inflammation and cancers. [1. Oncogene. 2000 Jun 8;19(25):2943-50.]   Fennel seed is also known to increase, or at least, help maintain a waning milk supply and is thus included in many teas and supplements marketed to breastfeeding mothers.   Further, fennel is rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium and even copper.

Growing Fennel: Fennel is easy to grow and can even do surprisingly well in containers with a depth as minimal as 8-inches.   Rich, well-drained soil is essential for fennel to prosper.     From seed to harvest, fennel takes 8 – 10 weeks.   Placing fennel in an area well-sheltered from winds will prevent an early bolt.

Using Fennel: Fennel is a vegetable with remarkably versatile culinary uses.   The flavorful fronds can be steeped in vinegar and used along with unrefined extra virgin olive oil as a dressing for vegetables.   The fronds may also be dried and used in teas along with the seeds.   The fennel bulb can be roasted or braised, or even served raw in winter salads.

My Favorite Fennel Recipes:

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What people are saying

  1. says

    I love fennel! Not a huge fan of cooked fennel, but I do like it shaved (sliced very thinly on a mandoline or V-slicer) and marinated with orange vinaigrette, orange/tangerine wedges or sliced kumquats. Better and better after a couple days in the fridge. Fennel just sings when combined with citrus!

    Fennel seeds in sausage are the bomb, too.

    We often have a mini-fennel forest in our garden after the bulbs “bolt”. I can’t bear to rip it out even though it looks straggly and unkept, because it’s home to Swallowtail butterfly eggs, caterpillars and pupae.

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