Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet, subtly licorice flavour, playing a refreshing role in both Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. Its fat, celery-like appearance involves either a white or pale green bulb from which stalks shoot upwards, sometimes braided together. Atop these stalks sprout delicate, feathery green leaves, as well as flowers that produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves, and seeds are all edible. As part of the Umbellifereae family, it is closely related to parsley, carrots, dill, and coriander.
HOW TO CHOOSE
In season from the autumn through early spring when it is readily available and at its best.
Choose clean, crisp smallish bulbs that have a good white and green colouring with no sign of rust spots, browning, cracking or drying. On the rare ocassion that the greenery is still attached, it should be a fresh green colour.
Refrigerate, unwashed. Cut off the greens and store the bulbs in a paper bag or tightly wrapped in plastic and placed in the refrigerator for up to five days. Store the greens refrigerated and wrapped in plastic.
Cut off a thin slice from the base and trim off the stalks to 2.5 cm (1″) from the bulb. Remove the heavy middle stem at the core. Wash well. Cut thin rounds or chunks, halve or slice.
Good raw or cooked, it has a pleasant, hint of a licorice flavour. Fennel pairs nicely with salmon, salads or sautéed and combined with other ingredients. Can be boiled, roasted or marinated or added to stews or sauces, and even eaten raw in salads or as part of your raw vegetable platter.
If the fragrant greenery have been spared, they can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill and used for a last-minute flavour enhancer.
Fennel is rich in vitamin A and, also, contains calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Its unique flavonoids give it strong antioxidant activity. In addition, the fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of fiber.
Fennel (raw, bulb), 1 cup (200g)
Total Fat: 0.17g
*Good source of: Potassium (360mg), and Vitamin C (10mg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.
- Although fennel leaves are edible, it is common for only the bulb to be displayed in produce markets.
Two names? The English are inclined to call the vegetable by the name of its flavour, anise.