Fennel is a layered, bulbous vegetable that originated in the Mediterranean and has been used for centuries. Fennel is used as an ingredient in recipes and on its own as a side dish to complement a rich entrée. The vegetable has a mild licorice flavor and can be thinly sliced and eaten raw or cooked.
Fennel has a very mild anise or licorice flavor that can be enhanced or sweetened depending on how it is cooked (or not cooked). When diced and sauteed with onions as one of the first steps when making a soup or stew, fennel becomes very sweet. If you’re looking for a pronounced fennel flavor, try crushing or chopping a teaspoon or two of fennel seed and adding it with the diced fennel when you start your sauteed vegetables. When fennel is sliced and used in a salad, the flavor is more pronounced, brought out by the vinaigrette you use.
All parts of the plant are edible:
- The bulb is the bulk of the plant, with its thick ribbed layered leaves, each producing a stalk. The bulb can be sliced, diced, cut in wedges or peeled into leaves. The fennel bulb can be eaten raw or cooked.
- The stalk is quite fibrous, and to eat it directly, it must be cooked. Adding stalks to a broth or soup for flavor and then discarding it a great way you can harness its flavor.
- Fennel fronds grow out of the stalks and look like beautiful, frilly, thread-like dill. They are a delicate garnish and are also used as a fresh herb in salads and other dishes.