Thursday, January 03, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging/Fennel: Vegetable, Herb or Spice?

Actually, all fennel is all three. The lacy fronds are used as an herb, the seeds are used as a spice, and even the bulb of the plant itself is edible both raw and cooked, making fennel one of the most versatile items in the produce section. Though rare, fennel pollen is also used as a spice.

Each of these edible elements shares a similar flavor, in varying degrees, to the spices anise and star anise. In fact, the three completely different species all have the same aromatic compound called anethole. Fennel pollen and seed have the most concentrated flavor. The fronds and the bulb have a milder, sweeter taste. Fennel lends a distinctive taste to the foods of several different cultures as diverse as Indian and Middle Eastern, to Chinese as one of the components of Five Spice Powder. Fennel seed can also be found in European foods such as sausage and rye bread.

I've looked for fennel at my farmers market in season, but so far have not had much luck. Now that winter is here and we have to buy a bit of produce at the market, it seemed like a good time to give it a try. It is harvested in late summer and autumn, thus works well with either a light salad or a hearty fall soup.

Fennel, Potato and Leek Soup

Clementine and Fennel Salad

You can find other herb posts for Weekend Herb Blogging at Kalyn's Kitchen. You can find this week's recipe carnival at The Common Room.


A scientist in the kitchen said...

I like using fennel seeds in meat dishes. Too bad I can't get hold of fennel bulbs here, would love to cook with them too.

Kalyn said...

I love fennel the spice (and even have some fennel pollen thanks to a great blogging friend) but I don't know why I haven't cooked much with fennel bulbs. I need to get working on that! Both your fennel dishes sound just fantastic!

jen said...

is fennel the stuff that is sharp and pointy when you eat an everything bagel?

i think it is. hmmm. for shame, jen.

tut-tut said...

I understand fennel pollen is the new it ingredient.

rachel said...

fwiw, it's not difficult to grow fennel - no more difficult than celery or whatever. From what I understand, it's just a matter of not letting it get too dry and parched.