Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Most parts of the fennel plant are used including the leaves, flowers and seeds. Native to Southern Europe, fennel was extensively cultivated and used by the Romans. The most used part of fennel is its seeds, though young leafs can be used also as well as the plants stalks.
Fennel has a warm and liquorice-like taste that is slightly sweet. It's often compared to the flavour of dill, though the seed is often considered less pungent.
Fennel has an anise-liquorice like aroma.
The flavour of fennel matches well with beans, beetroot, cabbage, cucumber, duck, leeks pork and rice.
Fennel should be planted in a sunny position with a fertile and moist soil. If planted near dill they can hybridize, resulting in offspring that hold no value, so planting near each other should be avoided.
Fennel is a perennial plant that can grow 1-2 metres tall. Bright yellow flowers adorn the fennel plant. In cooler climates fennel will propagate in spring or summer, though in warm climates fennel will propagate all year round.
When planting fennel keep in mind that if planted near other plants their growth may become stunted, because of this fennel can often be referred to as a loner plant. This should not be planted near dill or cross-pollination can occur.
Folklore has said that if you hang a bunch of fennel above your door on Midsummer’s Eve you will be protected from enchantment and witches.
It was believed in history that fennel promoted courage and energy, athletes competing in the Olympics often consumed large amounts of fennel to build strength and endurance.
Fennel has been known as the slimming herb as it stimulates the metabolism.
Does fennel taste like liquorice?
Yes fennel does have a taste that resembles liquorice, cooking and roasting generally dissipates the stronger liquorice flavour.
Should fennel seeds be ground?
That is dependent on what you’re cooking. Some people love the bigger chunks of the seeds and some people prefer the flavour more mixed in.