While fennel is technically a herb, the bulb of the plant is often used as a highly flavourful and aromatic vegetable tasting similarly to black licorice. While the seed can be used ground or whole as a spice, the feathery leaves of the upper part of the plant are similar in appearance to dill and have a wide variety of culinary uses. The bulb can be eaten raw, braised, sautéed or grilled- give it a try the next time you fire up the barbecue! This great plant can be found in our grocery stores just about year round, but is in season this month.
Fennel contains a compound called Anethole which gives it that sweet, licorice flavour which is used in liqueurs, teas, toothpaste and seasonings as a result. It also has been found to have antimicrobial properties combatting against bacteria (salmonella), fungi & yeast (candida).
Fun fact: Anethole can be used as an insecticide against some species or mosquitos, gnats, weevils, cockroaches & beetles. It’s actually more effective than DEET against mites!
Most often the variety of fennel found in grocery stores is called Florence Fennel. It can grow alongside highways in North America, and is even considered a weed in Australia and the US-you could easily plant it in your backyard this summer! There’s no reason to avoid incorporating fennel into your culinary repertoire. Even if you don’t like the taste of black licorice, I encourage you to give the recipe below a try & get cooking with fennel today!
Fennel and Orange Salad
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced
2 large oranges, sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
salt to taste
2 bunches arugula – rinsed, dried and chopped
Place the fennel and orange in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; sprinkle with poppyseeds and salt. Chill and serve over a bed of arugula. Original recipe makes 4 servings