The Greek name for fennel is actually marathon, and the place of the famous battle of Marathon literally means ‘a plain with fennel.’ Fennel is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, and is a popular ingredient in many cuisines. In India, seeds are chewed after meals to freshen breath and aid in digestion. Fennel is an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamin B, and several dietary minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
Buying & Storing
When buying fennel, check for damage to the stems and/or bulb. Typically, fennel is sold with both the stems and leaves attached, or with the stems cut off just above the bulb. Either way is fine, simply dependent on what parts you and how you intend to use.
Store fennel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The delicate leaves will begin to go limp fairly quickly so wrap them in a damp paper towel before refrigerating. If the stems and leaves have gone limp, cut the stems off and place them upright in a glass of water. The leaves will come back around much like celery.
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Preparation: all parts of fennel can be used (bulb, stalks, and leaves). The bulb, stalks, and leaves each have a different texture and intensity of flavor so tasting each part to get a sense of how much to use is very helpful in preparation and cooking.
Remove the stalks and leaves from the bulb, rinse separately and dry. Trim any damaged or woody areas of the stalks. Wash the fennel bulb under cool water paying special attention to the areas where the stems sprout from the bulb as dirt can get stuck in the crevices. To remove the core, cut the bulb from top to bottom in half, then in half again, and de-core the bulb by cutting it off at an angle.
Raw – slice the bulb and stalks, and add to salads. Raw fennel goes great with granny smith apples, chicken or turkey, and fresh berries. Use raw fennel with dips, add it to slaws, use as a replacement for celery, or eat plain. Eating raw fennel will even help freshen your breath!
Puree – chop and blend fennel in a mixer or food processor. Pureed fennel can be added to soups, smoothies, sauces, or dressings.
Garnish – the feathery leaves can be chopped and used as a fresh herb for seasoning or used as a garnish. It is a good replacement for dill, especially on baked or broiled fish with lemon.
Roast – trim stalks and cut the bulb in half from top to bottom, then cut into vertical 1/2-inch slices. Toss the slices in olive oil, salt and pepper, spread on a baking sheet and roast at 425°F for 25-30 minutes. Flip each slice over halfway through so that it can caramelize on both sides.
Grill – trim stalks and cut the fennel bulb into halves or quarters. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Place the cut sides down on a warm but not too hot part of your grill and cook for approximately 5 minutes, check, and flip as needed.
Sauté – slice bulb and stalks, sauté with veggies (onion, peppers, garlic, etc.) and add to pasta, grain salads, or eat alone as a side dish.
Boil – chop fennel and boil in water for 20-30 minutes. Use the water to make tea (iced or hot).