Other names: Anise
Availability: All year.
Source: United States.
Handling Tips: 32-34° F. Keep cold and dry. Mist lightly for display only
General Information: Fennel yields both a herb and a spice. All plant parts are edible: roots, stalks and leaves, with the spice coming from the dried seeds. Fennel's flavor is a sweet anise or licorice. The large, white bulb may be sliced and steamed, sauteed, baked or used fresh in salads. The dill-like leaves may be used to top soups, omelettes, stews or used as a garnish. A good breath neutralizer too.
Nutritional: In the first century, Pliny noted that after snakes had shed their skins, they ate fennel to restore their sight. It has since been used as a wash for eyestrain and irritations. Chinese and Hindus used it as a snake bite remedy. It is carminative, a weak diuretic and mild stimulant. The oil is added to purgative medication to prevent intestinal colic. Fennel was once used to stimulate lactation. It allays hunger and was thought to be a cure for obesity in Renaissance Europe. It should not be used in high dosages as it causes muscular spasms and hallucinations.
Applications: As a herb, fennel leaves are used in French and Italian cuisine's in sauces for fish and in mayonnaise. In Italy fennel is also used to season pork roasts and spicy sausages, especially the Florentine salami finocchiona. It is traditionally considered one of the best herbs for fish dishes. The English use fennel seeds in almost all fish dishes, especially as a court bouillon for poaching fish and seafood. It is used to flavour breads, cakes and confectionery. It is an ingredient of Chinese Five Spices and of some curry powders. Several liquors are flavoured with fennel, including fennouillette, akvavit, gin and was used in distilling absinthe.
History: A native to the Mediterranean, Fennel is an ancient and common plant known to the ancient Greeks and spread throughout Europe by Imperial Rome. It is also grown in India, the Orient, Australia, South America and has become naturalized in the US. It has been called the 'meeting' seed by the Puritans who would chew it during their long church services. The name derives from the Latin foeniculum, meaning 'little hay'.
Potato, Fennel and Celery Root Soup