While working at a small, diversified farm in North Carolina, a member of the Boston Organics staff gave a tour to a group of elementary school students. The farm staff offered the kids small samples of the produce that was growing in the fields, including bits of fragrant fennel fronds. After chewing on the leaves, one of the students announced “This is the best licorice ever!” Though licorice, fennel and anise are all completely different plants, they all share a bit of that distinctive “licorice” flavor. And in general, we agree with that observant youngster; fennel is pretty awesome.
Fennel is native to the Mediterranean, and belongs to the family Apiaceae, which also includes carrots, dill, cilantro and parsley. Organic fennel is packed with vitamin C, and is thought to aid in digestion (you may have seen bowls of colorful sugar coated fennel seeds as you leave Indian restaurants). Its fresh, spicy flavor can be enjoyed by eating it cooked or raw. If you’d like to do some experimenting, we think that fennel pairs especially well with oranges or spring veggies. Below are a few of our favorite organic fennel recipes.
Couscous with Fennel, Chickpeas and Citrus
The fennel bulb and stalks take center stage in this filling recipe. Olives, oranges and couscous come together to give it a Mediterranean flavor.
Radicchio and Orange Salad
This simple salad has a perfect balance of sweet and tart, and shaved fennel adds a layer of earthy goodness.
Pasta with Snap Peas and Fennel
Celebrate spring with fresh, green ingredients, like snap peas, parsley and green onions. The fresh flavor of fennel helps clear away any winter blahs from your taste buds.
Warm White Beans with Roasted Fennel
Beans, greens and fennel make this a hearty, easy and delicious meal.
Roasted Orange Chicken with Fennel
This dish is flavorful and nourishing, and the caramelized slices of orange and fennel make it a visual, as well as culinary, knock-out.
Some recipes may call for only the white fennel bulb, when in fact the whole plant—including the stalks and feathery fronds—are edible. Snack on the stalks like you would celery (or dip it in some beet hummus), or use the fronds as a tasty garnish. Leftover stalks also are a great addition to soup stocks, along with other kitchen scraps. Fennel fronds also make a flavorful addition to cocktails and aperetifs (which makes sense given its digestion-stimulating properties). Check out these suggestions for making fennel frond beverages.