Latin Name: Foeniculum vulgare
Fennel is a perennial herb that belongs to the carrot family.
Fennel is widely cultivated, both in its native range and elsewhere, for its edible, strongly flavoured leaves and fruits. It has an aniseed flavour similar to anise and star anise, but is usually not as strong.
Fennel is available all year round, but is at its best from the start of June to the end of September.
When eaten raw, the texture is crisp and the flavour is quite assertive with a taste of aniseed. When cooked, it is softer and more mellow.
To prepare Fennel wash, then trim off the green tops to be used as a garnish. Slice off the shoots and root and peel off the tougher outer layer (if the bulb is young or tender, this layer can be left on). If cooking it whole, cut out the tough central core from the bottom, leaving a cone-shaped cavity, or slice if preferable.
To cook, firstly you can cut the fennel into very thin slices for salads. You could steam or boil, whole or cut into wedges. Or roast for up to 50 minutes.
Fennel is high in dietary fibre, covering more than 25% of your daily amount, as well as potassium, which is important for maintaining low blood pressure. It is packed with vitamins A, C, B6, and a host of others.
History & Tradition
The word fennel developed from Middle English fenel or fenyl. This came from Old English fenol or finol, which in turn came from Latin feniculum or foeniculum, the diminutive of fenum or faenum, meaning “hay”.
Fennel was prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans who used it as medicine, food, and insect repellent. A fennel tea was believed to give courage to the warriors prior to battle. According to Greek mythology, Prometheus used a giant stalk of fennel to carry fire from Mount Olympus to Earth. Emperor Charlemagne required the cultivation of fennel on all imperial farms.