This week’s New Food is another cool-weather vegetable: fennel. Even if you’ve never seen this white bulb with its fuzzy, fern-like leaves before, chances are you’ve consumed at least one small part of it. Fennel seeds are a common ingredient in Italian sausage and can also be found in Indian curries and other cuisines. In this post, we’re dealing with the bulbs, fronds and stalks of fresh fennel, but you might recognize the taste!’
New Food Friday: Fennel
What it is: Fennel is a vegetable in the carrot family that consists of a white bulb that grows underground, celery-like stalks and leafy fronds that resemble dill. All parts of the plant, including the seeds, are edible.
What it tastes like: Fresh fennel has a sharp anise flavor, similar to licorice but with a bit of a spicy bite to it.
Where and when to find it: Fennel is in season from fall to spring.
How to buy it: I usually find fennel near the greens and scallions at the grocery store. Look for bulbs that are smooth and unbruise, with fronds that aren’t overly wilted or yellowing.
How to store it: Store fennel in the fridge. If you wish, you can cut up the plant and store the different parts separately.
How to prepare it: Cut the stalks and fronds away from the bulb. Store the fronds in layers of paper towels like a fresh herb and wash just before using. Slice or dice the stalks like celery. Cut the root end off the bulb, cut the bulb in half, and slice or dice the bulb as desired.
What I did with it: Fennel can be eaten raw or cooked, so I tried several variations including adding it to salads, roasting slices of the bulbs, and using the diced stalks as a substitute for onion in a risotto.
The verdict: Raw fennel can have an overwhelming flavor if too much of it is included in a salad or similar dish. A little goes a long way. Cooked fennel is sweeter and more mellow, and makes an interesting addition to soups, sauces and more. I’ll definitely keep experimenting with it.