Fennel is an ancient and widespread culinary herb in European and Asian cultures. Its uses are so varied that it would be impossible to list them all here. But we'll highlight a few of the most common uses in cooking, ideas that might inspire something new for you.
Fennel, also called finocchio, is a lovely plant in the garden. It has a feathery look and delicate textured foliage, attracting bees and butterflies.
When it comes to invasive plants, fennel is often feared as it does spread aggressively. But as an herb, fennel is a nice addition to any kitchen garden and makes a wonderful addition to food. The pungent anise flavor is reminiscent of licorice or black licorice, which I like.
Common sweet fennel looks like similar dill with green whispy, feathery foliage. In mid-to-late summer, fennel puts out delicate yellow flowers.
Fennel is short-lived but re-seeds on its own if given a chance.
Fennel grows to a maximum of 3-5 feet tall and wide, so give it lots of room to grow. It likes full sun and well-drained, rich soil. Fennel is easy to grow but does best in well-drained, rich soil that receives adequate water and sun.
Fennel is a tasty culinary herb that has many uses. The edible bulb at the base of the plant (the Florence fennel) and the leafy stalks can be used in soups, salads, sautés, and cooked dishes.
Fennel greenery can be harvested by snipping off fronds as needed.
Once fennel flowers are brown, it's time to harvest the seeds. First, cut the stalks with care, then place the stalks and hang the bundle upside down by their stems in an area away from the full sun. Beneath the stalks, place a small bag under them to collect the falling seeds. When all seeds are collected, rinse and dry thoroughly before storing them in an airtight glass jar or container.
Fennel seeds are popular in sausage or in other savory dishes. Fennel greens can be frozen or air-dried and stored for future use.
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