You probably have a little jar of fennel seeds in your spice rack. And you’ve probably seen the white bulbs and tall feathery fronds at the farmers market. Fennel is a super diverse plant with a very unique flavor.
All at once fennel is a vegetable, an herb, and a spice.
Every part of the plant is edible.
Fennel has a unique flavor like an earthy licorice. It's sometimes mixed up with Aniseed because their flavores are similar. Each part of a fennel plant has a slightly different taste. The flavor is sweeter when raw and mellow when it's cooked. Fennel mixes surprisingly well with other flavors. It's perfect with fish and Italian sausage wouldn't be the same without it.
The seeds are used in soups and stews, Italian sausage, bread, and tea.
The fronds are used raw in salads and cooked on top of fish. You can dry the fronds and store them like you would for dill.
The stalks are also cooked with fish to give extra flavor and they can be pureed to add to soups and sauces.
The bulb is used raw and cooked in everything from deserts to casseroles.
For a summertime delight try this citrus fennel and avocado salad from Foodie Crush.
The flowers are commonly known as fennel pollen. They’re the most expensive and most flavorful part of the plant. Dust fennel pollen on top of veggies and meat alike.
Try these sweet fennel shortbread cookies from Not Without Salt.
If you’re wondering where to pick up some fennel pollen, check out Pollen Ranch.
Look for firm white bulbs that still have some (if not all) of the stalk attached. Old fennel bulbs will have dry, brown spots on the outer leaves and will feel lighter than fresh fennel bulbs.
Fennel bulbs dry out very quickly both on the counter and in the fridge. It will last a couple of days loose in the fridge. If you won't be using it that quickly, you’ll want to create some extra humidity to keep it fresh. Get a paper towel wet and wring it out so it’s slightly damp but not dripping. Loosely wrap the towel around the bulb and place it in a plastic bag. The bags from the grocery store will do nicely. Don’t seal the bag. The bulb should last over a week like this.
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