Fabulous Fennel

I’m having an affair with fennel. She’s a mysterious and seductive vegetable, hard to describe but easy to cook and love. Oh that sweet anise scent, that cool, fresh flavor, that je ne sais quoi! Delve into fennel and expose yourself to a delicious new world of scent, taste and options!

Before I got better acquainted with fennel, I was absolutely terrified of it. Seriously, I was scared of the creepy looking, giant, scraggly, root thing with stalks, frilly leaves, flowers–there’s a lot of plant going on here! Once I got a taste of fennel though, I saw it as a beautiful, alluring and very different vegetable and you will too.

ORGANICALLY SPEAKING the anise/licorice scent that fennel has scares away bugs and vermin so the crop requires little attention. Even conventional farmers do not use pesticide on their fennel. Kinda cool! But you’re not likely to find fennel at your conventional grocery stores, so hit the health food stores and farmer’s markets and get eating.

In Europe, you’ll see fennel a lot. The food savvy Europeans are hip to the plant–especially in the Mediterranean. The Greeks have a long history with fennel and the plant plays a role in mythology a bit, but my first encounter with fennel was at an Indian restaurant. Near the front door or cash register, a bowl filled with tiny, multi-colored candies is frequently waiting for you. Those are sugar coated fennel seeds and make an incredibly refreshing palate-cleanser to chase your meal. Delicious!

The seeds are great and can be easily harvested off the plant, which grows wild all over California and the South Eastern United States. The leaves are also edible and make a nice addition to a salad or to fish dishes. The stalks are technically edible but so tough and fibrous not even a goat would chew them! I’ve read about people cutting and drying them to chuck into the fire on a BBQ, which would add a nice fennel-smokiness to whatever was being grilled (pork or fish I’d imagine, a great pairing for the plant). Sadly the wild variety grows without a bulb at the base and that’s the best part for eating!

Like I mentioned earlier, this is an odd looking plant. At the base is a white bulb. Coming out of that tasty bulb are long green stalks (maybe a couple feet long) and on top of that a bunch of frilly leaves and frequently beautiful splays of yellow flowers where the seeds burst forth. And while it is all edible, that bulb is really where it’s at! Grill it, braise it, chomp it raw–you cannot lose.

I completely forgot to mention that fennel is good for you too. Another antioxidant carrying plant with vitamin C, fiber, folate…it’s good for circulation and is a natural anti-inflammatory. But I don’t have time to go into that right now. I’ve got a farmer’s market to hit, some fennel bulbs to grill and a killer dinner party to throw! Give fennel a shot. Don’t be intimidated by its appearance. It’s delicious, delicate, easy to prepare and kinda sexy in its own strange way.

Try fennel in any of these delicious recipes:

Vegetable Coconut Ginger Sauce

Ribollita Italian Vegetable Soup

Butternut Squash Pilaf

By Gregory Schaefer, Planet Green

22 comments

Monica May
Monica May5 years ago

use fennel in turkey burgers....yum

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jane Fox
Jane Fox6 years ago

Going to dry my stems from now on!

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Jennifer C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Great recipe. Thanks.

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Lady Ravens
Lady Ravens7 years ago

Thank You for sharing. I can't wait to try this veggy in different things now :)

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Susanne Dawn P.

TY Megan

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Miguel D.
Past Member 8 years ago

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ31Ljd9T_Y

unbelievable....

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Kay O.
Kay O8 years ago

Delicious!

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Ellinor S.
Ellinor S8 years ago

thank you

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gerlinde p.
gerlinde p8 years ago

thanks for the article, known fennel only as a tea.

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