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.