What is Fennel
Fennel is a Mediterranean native plant, which is both a vegetable and an herb. It has a bulbous base, green stalks and feathery fronds, which can be reserved for garnish. Bulb or Florence fennel – so called to distinguish it from the feathery green herb – resembles a fat white celery root with overlapping leaves and green, wispy fronds. Fennel is a slightly sweet vegetable and it has a delicate but distinctive flavor of anise and a crisp, refreshing texture.
How to Chose Best Fennel
Fennel is available all year round. Choose firm, rounded bulbs, in which the outer layers are crisp and white, not wizened and yellow. Some people claim that the plumper “female” bulbs have the better flavor. If possible, buy fennel bulbs with their topknots of feathery green fronds intact, which you can chop and use for garnishing or as a herb in any dish in which you would use dill.
How to Store Fennel
Wrapped tightly in a plastic bag, whole fennel bulbs will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Once cut, however, they must be used immediately, or the cut surfaces will discolor and the texture will soften. If using raw, toss the slices in lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring.
How to Use Fennel
Fennel can be eaten raw, dressed with a vinaigrette or served in a mixed salad. It can also be cooked – either sauteed, baked or braised. It lends itself to be prepared in a wide variety of ways. When it is cooked, the anise flavor becomes more subtle and the texture resembles cooked celery. Braised fennel is particularly good with white fish or chicken, but it is also delicious served as a separate vegetable course, either roasted, or baked with a cheese sauce. Allow a whole bulb per serving.
Delicious raw or cooked, it is a versatile vegetable. Braised fennel is a particularly good choice.
Fennel seeds may be used whole or ground in both sweet and savory dishes as well as in some breads.
Benefits of Fennel
Originally a medicinal remedy for flatulence, fennel has become one of the most important Mediterranean vegetables, especially in Italy. When eaten raw, fennel is an excellent source of potassium. It has a reputation as colic easier and stomach soother. Babies sleep happily after being fed spoonfuls of fennel tea. It is effective for relieving symptoms of indigestion. A cup of freshly brewed fennel tea may be just the best remedy after a rich evening meal.
Scroll down for some tasty fennel recipes.