Fennel 101 – The Basics

Fennel is a vegetable that many Americans aren’t familiar with since it’s not commonly called for in American cuisine. Yet, it’s often used in Italian and even French foods. If you like licorice or anise flavor, chances are that you’ll like fennel. In the video below, I cover a lot of basic information about fennel including its amazing medicinal properties, for which it has been used since antiquity. So, if you’re not sure what to do with fennel, check this out…it should help!

My notes about fennel are below the video for your personal use. I hope this helps!


Fennel 101 – The Basics

About Fennel
Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family, along with parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. It is native to the Mediterranean region. It has a white to pale green bulb with stalks extending upward, topped with feathery green leaves, all of which are edible. Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet with somewhat of a licorice or anise flavor. Fennel is most often used in Italian, but also in French cooking. The use of fennel stems back to Greek mythology. Fennel was prized by ancient Greeks and Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties.

Nutrition Tidbits
Fennel is an excellent source of Vitamin C, and a good source of fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and folate. It also contains other nutrients as well. One cup of sliced raw fennel has a mere 27 calories.

Fennel seeds are an effective digestive aid, reducing cramping, gas and bloating. Fennel seed tea has been useful in treating irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, Celiac disease, and intestinal candidiasis. Fennel’s properties pass into breast milk, so nursing mothers can help reduce colic in their infants by drinking fennel seed tea. Fennel seed can also reduce nausea from stomach flu, food poisoning, digestive infections, and hangovers. It can also help relieve pain from hiatal hernia and indigestion. The medicinal properties of fennel seed do not stop there! More can be read on this subject at http://www.herbaleducation.net/fennel

How to Select Fennel
Look for bulbs that are clean, firm, and solid without signs of bruising, splitting or spotting. The stalks should be relatively straight and the stalks and leaves should be green. There should be no signs of flowering buds, which indicates the vegetable is old. It should have a slight licorice or anise aroma.

How to Store Fennel
First, trim the stalks to two or three inches above the bulb. Wrap loosely in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. Use it as soon as possible, since it ages quickly.

How to Preserve Fennel
Fennel is best when fresh. It can be frozen after being blanched, but loses a lot of its flavor in the process. However, frozen fennel will have a very soft texture, so it can still be used in soups. To freeze fennel bulb, cut it into small pieces and blanch in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain thoroughly, then place in a freezer plastic bag before freezing.

The fronds and stalks freeze well and easily. Simply wash them, cut them into desired pieces and place them in freezer bags before freezing.

Dried fennel seeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry location. They will stay fresh for about six months. Storing the seeds in the refrigerator will prolong their shelf life.

How to Prepare Fennel
First, cut the stalks off the bulb. Wash the bulb. If the bulb isn’t going to be used whole in a recipe, the root core is often removed (it is edible, but can be fibrous and tough when not thoroughly cooked). To do this, slice it in half from top to bottom. Using the tip of your knife, cut an upside down “V” over the root end from the inside of a bulb half. Remove the core after cutting. Repeat with the other half of the bulb. After removing the root core, the bulb halves can be cut as needed. Here’s a video on how to cut a fennel bulb… https://youtu.be/z26Ei9b5Pu0

Fennel can dry out quickly when cut. If you need to cut it in advance, store it wrapped in damp paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until needed.

Save the leaves (or fronds) for use as an herb. They can be sprinkled on salads or used as a garnish in a dish where fennel was used. The stalks can be used in cooking or making stock. Also, the flavor of fennel goes well with fish. Whether you’re grilling, poaching, or steaming fish, lay fennel stalks and fronds beside the fish and the sweet fennel flavor will be infused into your fish. Yum!

Cooking/Serving Methods
Fennel can be eaten raw or cooked. Many Italians finish a meal with a slice of raw fennel bulb, as they believe it aids digestion. When using it raw, slice it thinly since thick slices can be somewhat fibrous.

The fennel bulb can be sliced thinly and added to salads. The fronds are often used as an herb, flavoring cooked dishes or raw salads.

The bulb can be cooked in just about any way you want…roasted, sautéed, braised, fried, boiled, steamed, baked in casseroles, and added to soups.

Here are some quick serving tips for fennel supplied by http://www.whfoods.com

* Healthy sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish.

* Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.

* Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops.

* Next time you are looking for a new way to adorn your sandwiches, consider adding sliced fennel in addition to the traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato.

* Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.

* Fennel is a match made in Heaven when served with salmon.

* Try adding shaved fennel bulb to coleslaw.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Fennel
Basil, cilantro, chives, garlic, oregano, parsley, sage, shallots, tarragon, and thyme all go well with fennel.

Foods That Go Well With Fennel
Fennel goes well with apples, beets, butter, cheese, cream, mussels, olive, orange, sausage, potatoes, tomatoes, fish, lemon, chicken, Parmesan cheese, in sauces, soups, stuffings, and salads.

Recipe Links
Grilled Fennel Salad with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan https://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/06/grilled-fennel-salad-with-fresh-herbs-and-parmesan.html?m

Roasted Fennel with Parmesan https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/roasted-fennel-with-parmesan-recipe-1943604

53 Fresh Fennel Recipes That Make Us Fall For It All Over Again https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/fennel-recipes

25 Truly Fabulous Fennel Recipes https://www.marthastewart.com/286398/fennel-recipes

Basic Roasted Fennel https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/basic-roasted-fennel

Fennel al Forno https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12301-fennel-al-forno

22 Fresh Fennel Recipes That Everyone Will Love https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/fennel-recipes.html

Sautéed Fennel With Garlic https://www.tastingtable.com/cook/recipes/sauteed-fennel-garlic-recipe

Roasted Fennel and Fingerling Potatoes https://producemadesimple.ca/roasted-fennel-and-fingerling-potatoes/

Pear Fennel Salad https://producemadesimple.ca/honey-glazed-pork-chops-with-pear-chutney-pear-fennel-salad/

White Bean Fennel Soup https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/white-bean-fennel-soup/

Carrot Fennel Soup https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/carrot-fennel-soup-350600

Fennel Soup https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/84847/fennel-soup/

Caramelized Fennel: The Best Fennel You’ll Ever Eat https://www.freshcityfarms.com/recipes/caramelized-fennel-the-best-fennel-you-ll-ever-eat

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.










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