We primarily eat the bulb, the bulge at the base of the long stalks (also edible, but tougher). The leaves are feathery and delicate served as herbs, while the small bouquets of yellow flowers leave aromatic seeds behind.
Remove the stems and wrap fennel in plastic wrap. It will keep up to a week in the fridge. But, the more it ages, the more it becomes fibrous and its flavour fades. For this reason, freezing is not recommended.
Not found regularly on our plates, fennel comes from the Mediterranean, where it is very popular. The Italians are the biggest consumers of this vegetable, which they call finocchio.
You’re not sure how to use it? Visit ricardocuisine.com to find more than 70 recipes with fennel.
WHAT TO BUY
Choose a bulb that is firm, fragrant, white and blemish free. Smaller fennel is more tender than larger ones.
Crunchy and slightly sweet, fennel is known for its anise flavour, reminiscent to black licorice. It is sometimes wrongly called “anise” or “dill.”
Fennel seeds are not bitter. They go well with fish, poultry, white meat, vegetables, alcohol, dessert and sweets. In Indian and Pakistani restaurants, instead of mints, they offer fennel seeds coated in sugar to aid digestion and refresh your breath.
Cut into quarters, it is served as a raw vegetable. You can also chop it to add to salad (a finely sliced medium-sized bulb provides around 625 ml/2 ½ cups). Mix raw fennel with orange quarters, some black olives, thin slices of red onion, and drizzle with the olive oil or vinegar of your choose… A classic combination filled with freshness. Rediscover it in salad, with cucumber, mayonnaise and pesto to accompany a salmon fillet.
Grilled on the barbecue, roasted in the oven, steamed or gratinated, fennel takes on a whole other personality and becomes an extraordinary vegetable side dish. Children can even like it, if it loses its anise taste.
Do your eyes and throat sting after eating fennel? Does your nose run and you sneeze? You may have oral allergy syndrome. People allergic to pollen, especially birch pollen, can also be sensitive to a protein in fennel. Vigilance is required, because the symptoms can get worse.