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.
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:
- Celery Root, Potato & Fennel Casserole with Walnut-encrusted Cod
- Braised Fennel with Basil