Fennel is an aromatic plant with pale green stalks and feathery, bright green foliage. The flavour of fennel is often compared to anise or liquorice, however it is actually much milder and sweeter than that and its flavour mellows out further when cooked.
There are two varieties of fennel: Florence fennel and common fennel.
Florence fennel has a broad, bulbous base that has a sweet delicate flavour that becomes even less pronounced after cooking. The base and stalks can be eaten raw or cooked. The fronds can be added to dishes as a garnish or added at the last minute to boost flavors.
Common fennel is the variety of the plant that produces fennel seeds. Fennel seeds can be purchased whole or ground, and are used in both savoury and sweet dishes.
How to Select and Store Fennel
Choose bulbs that are clean and firm with no brown spots. The green foliage, called the frond, should also be a vibrant green colour.
Fennel can be stored in your refrigerator for up to 5 days when wrapped tightly in a plastic bag.
To Freeze Fennel, clean and prepare the bulb following the instructions below. Then cut it into small pieces and blanch in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain thoroughly, then place in a freezer safe plastic bag before freezing.
Fennel has a high water content, so freezing the bulb can drastically alter the texture. If you are planning on using the fennel in a soft preparation, like soup, this should not be an issue. However, you will not be able to use the bulb raw after thawing.
Fennel stalks and fronds freeze very well compared to the bulb. Simply wash and chop the stalks and fronds and place in a freezer safe plastic bag.
How to Prepare Fennel
After washing and drying, trim away the bottom and cut the stems off the bulb. This will make the bulb easier to work with. The stalks and attached fronds can be saved for vegetable broth, or you can use the fronds as you would a fresh herb.
Peel away any wilted or brown layers from the bulb, then lay the flat cut side down to stabilize it on your cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the bulb into quarters. These wedges can be braised or roasted. Alternatively, slice it thinly for sautéing or adding to salads.
1 pound of fennel yields about 2 ½ cups sliced.
- Fennel is sometimes labeled sweet anise in grocery stores.
- Don’t throw out your fennel fronds! They can be used to garnish salads, tucked into the cavity of roasted chicken or fish, or added to soups and marinades.
- Try adding shaved fennel to coleslaw. Because it’s thinly sliced, it won’t overpower the dish.
- Fennel in cooked tomato dishes is a match made in heaven. Add sautéed fennel to tomato-based sauces. Mussels are especially delicious!
Fennel goes well with
Apples, beets, butter, cheese, chicken, cream, fish, garlic, lemon, mussels, olive, orange, sausage, potatoes, thyme and tomatoes
Enjoy fennel raw or cook it by braising, grilling, boiling, sautéing or adding to a soup. The green feathery tops can be used to enhance the flavour of a dish by chopping finely and sprinkling on top as more of a garnish.
Produce Made Simple has several fennel recipes for you to try!
- Fennel’s light green bulb can be sliced and used raw on a veggie platter or in salads, like our Pear Fennel Salad.
- Fennel is delicious simply sautéed with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.
- Try roasting fennel with chicken and olives for a tasty Mediterranean-inspired dinner!
- Roast fennel with fingerling potatoes for an easy side dish.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, the nutritional value per 1 cup (250ml) of raw fennel bulb using the daily recommended intake from Health Canada is: 18% of Vitamin C, 13% of Vitamin A, 11% of potassium, 11% of fibre, 4% of phosphorus, and 4% of calcium. It is also a source of lutein, an antioxidant that is reported to be beneficial for maintaining good eyesight.