Fennel Basics: 101

October 21, 2013

Ever tried cooking or using fennel? If not here's your 101 on fennel - from how to shop to it's stellar nutritional profile. Find out all you need to know here.

What is Fennel? Fennel is a member of the Umbellifereae family, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is related to parsley, dill, carrots, and coriander. It has a distinct licorice-type flavor and the seeds, stalks, and dill-like green fronds can all be consumed.

How to Buy: Look for clean, firm, solid white or pale green bulbs without splits, bruises or spots, and stalks that cling tightly. Stalks and fronds should be deep clear green with no flowering (which indicates aging.)

Fennel is also know as, Florence fennel, Finocchio or Fenouil. Sold in mature (14-18”) or baby (5-8”) sizes, and available fall through early spring from throughout the US; imported from India, France, and Russia.

How to Store: Wrap unwashed fennel in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator crisper up to 5 days; does lose flavor as it ages. Dried fennel seeds can keep 6 months in an airtight container in cool dry place.

How to Use: Slice vertically through the bulb then julienne, dice or cut into chunks as per recipe. Use for soups, stocks and stews, or grill, sauté or bake. Use fronds like fresh herbs to garnish or flavor foods, especially yogurt or sour cream dips. Fennel is also excellent raw in fresh green salads and in salad dressings. Has a slight anise/licorice flavor. Good substitute for celery in tuna, whitefish or salmon salads; tastes crunchy and slightly sweet when raw; slightly sweet with a cooked asparagus-like texture when blanched.

Health Benefits: High in fiber and vitamin C, phytonutrients (flavonoids, rutin, quercitin, kaempferol glycosides) plus anethole, which is known to reduce inflammation and possibly even prevent cancer. Fennel is also a good source of B vitamins (folate, niacin), potassium, manganese, molybdenum, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper. 1 cup raw fennel has 27 calories.

Smarter Shopping: Can be substituted for celery in many dishes.