Fennel is an elusive character. Technically defined as a herb, it can be sweet and soft, crunchy and fresh, eaten raw or cooked, and comes from the same plant family as carrots and parsley. If you’re not yet a fan of its liquorice flavours, our root-to-stem guide will convert you, with tips on how to buy, store, and eat it.
How To Buy
Go for smaller bulbs or medium-sized, but avoid any that are very large. Look for a white healthy-looking bulb, with bold green fronds – avoid any sort of discolouration, drying out, shrivelling, or too many cracks and splits.
How To Store
To keep your fennel fresh and crisp, separate the stalks from the bulb and keep in the fridge. The fronds and stalks can also benefit from being kept in water outside of the fridge. Whichever way you choose, try to use the stalks at least within a few days of buying, before they soften and lose their flavour. The bulb will keep a little longer, but fresh is always best for fruit and vegetables.
How To Cook
Fennel was made for salads: its slightly sweet flavour, crunchy bulb, and pretty leaves, make it a great addition. The bulb is great shredded in a coleslaw, and the stalks can also be used in recipes place of celery. The leaves also make a great garnish.
For the simplest side throw it in the oven with other veggies and tomatoes, some herbs, and olive oil. In the colder months, fennel can be made into a delicious soup, paired very well with a little grated apple on top. Dried fennel seed are a great pantry staple, adding complexity to everything from sausages to stew. Brew some fennel seeds in hot water as a tea, and you’ll be rewarded with a warming liquorice flavour.
Fennel adds a welcome splash of flavour to cooking, baking and other kitchen endeavours. Try it in these recipes from our favourite chefs.