See also: Versatile Fennel - Fennel Trivia
Often mistaken for celery, this vegetable has a different taste that is quite similar to anise or licorice. Fennel is often grown for its seeds and oil from the leaves and used for various food flavorings.
Fennel is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean area. The name fennel originates from the Greek word for "marathon” which is the famous battle at Marathon in 490 B.C. where the Greeks fought against the Persians who fought on a field of Fennel.
Availability and Selection
Fennel is available year round, with a peak season in fall and winter. Select fennel that are firm, have straight stalks, and green leaves. The bulbs should be compact in shape with the stalks fairly close and not too spread out. Avoid fennel that is discolored or show signs of splitting.
Storage and Preparation
Fennel is more delicate than celery and will dry out quickly. Before storing, cut the stalks off, wrap the stalks separately from the bulb in plastic bags, and store in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Fennel should keep for three to four days, but it is best to use it as soon as possible.
Wash fennel stalks thoroughly and use in soups and stews. The feathery leaves can be used as an herb or garnish. The fennel bulb must be washed, trimmed at the base, and then can be sliced as called for in the recipes.
Make Fennel Part of Your 5 A Day Plan
- Slice or dice for stews, soups, and stuffing.
- Add to salads. A traditional salad combines sliced fennel with peeled, sliced oranges; drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Quarter bulbs, then boil or steam until tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and bake. Or top with light cream sauce and low-fat cheese, and then bake casserole-style.