Fennel is an annual herb which produces the distinctive bulb that is often eaten as a vegetable. The leaves and seeds of this plant are also used in many culinary applications. Bulbs are often sliced and added to salads, or may be cut in half and roasted with other vegetables.
Steaming fish on a bed of fennel leaves is a traditional way to incorporate its unique flavor during the cooking process. Leaves are also used to garnish entrees, soups and jellies. Here at High Plains Spice Company, we include fennel seeds in Italian Sausage Seasoning, and they are a staple in many of our favorite Italian and Indian dishes.
Although fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean, it has been known as a condiment to the Indians, Egyptians and Chinese since antiquity. In Ancient Greece, fennel was a symbol of success and it was included in Charlemagne’s imperial coat of arms. The Romans were also large consumers of the plant as both a spice and a vegetable, and the name ‘fennel’ actually comes from the Latin word foeniculum, meaning “fragrant hay.”
Fennel seed is a versatile spice, whose strong anise flavor pairs well with fish, lamb and pork. It is also a great addition to stews, sauces and breads. Seeds can also be roasted, which gives them a sweet, spicy flavor that works well in Indian and Asian cooking.