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Tender Profile | Fennel

 Fennel in the field at Diggers' Mirth Collective Farm in Burlington

Fennel in the field at Diggers' Mirth Collective Farm in Burlington

Fennel

Who Am I?

  • Botanical name/plant family: Foeniculum vulgare
  • Great source of: Vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium and manganese
  • Harvest season: I am ready for harvest in early Summer

Important growing practices: It is recommended that leafy greens be bought organic, to limit exposure to pesticides

How to care for me:

If I come with both the leafy parts and the bulb, for storage you will want to separate the stalks from the bulbs and place in plastic bags.

Flavor and Pairings:

I have quite a unique flavor - crunchy and slightly sweet, with hints of anise or licorice, but with a bright fresh taste. I still enhance many different foods - I compliment sausage beautifully and heighten many seafood dishes! Enrich your fennel dish with apples, pomegranate, pears or citrus for lots of flavor and texture!

 

Fun Facts:

  • Fennel is a type of flowering plant that belongs to the carrot family.

  • People of India and Pakistan chew sugar coated fennel seed after eating to aid in digestion and eliminate bad breath.

  • Fennel has antispasmodic properties, which relieves muscle spasms

 

How to Prepare Fennel

Cut off the stems of the fennel where they meet the bulb. Don't compost the stems though! They can be used in stock to add flavor.

  1. If the fronds are attached to the stems, save them too. They can be treated like any other herb, and provide a more intense licorice flavor than the bulbs. (They look very similar to dill, making them a beautiful garnish as well.)

  2. The outside of fennel may be slightly brown, bruised, and/or discolored, but don't let it discourage you from still using your fennel! The outer layer can be pulled away with your hands to reveal inside layers, as you would with cabbage. Another option to prevent waste is to use a vegetable peeler to remove this outer layer, which conserves much more of the fennel and keeps it out of your compost and on your plate.

  3. After peeling your fennel, be sure to cut off the bottom of the bulb for a nice flat base. Now you’re ready to wedge, shave, and slice your fennel!

 

Removing the Core

The core of fennel is entirely edible, though it is a little firmer than the rest of the fennel. The core also will help to hold your fennel together a bit more, so it is entirely up to you whether or not you wish to remove it. When wedging the vegetable for roasting taking out the core will not cause the fennel to fall apart too badly, however if you wish to thinly slice and saute your fennel you will end up with many very thin slices as the layers will separate without the core to hold them together.

  1. In order to core your fennel, first quarter it using the steps below.

  2. Next, simply lay each quarter down flat on your cutting board and while holding your knife at a 45° angle remove the small hard core -  and you’re done!

 

Cutting Your Fennel Into Wedges

Cutting your fennel bulb into wedges is a super quick and easy way to prepare them, and their larger size makes them perfect for techniques like roasting!

  1. To begin, prepare your fennel using the above steps. Then, simply cut your fennel bulb into quarters using a sharp chef’s knife.

  2. Remove the core if you wish, and you are ready to cook!

 

Sliced Fennel

Slicing your fennel makes it a great candidate for sautes, salads, gratins, pizzas, crudite, pickling, and more! It all depends on the size of your slices and whether or not you chose to remove the core.

  1. Using a sharp knife, first slice your fennel into halves and then lay each half cut side down onto your cutting board.

  2. Depending on if you would like smaller rounded slices or longer more straight slices, hold your fennel widthwise or lengthwise, respectively.

  3. Finally, simply slice me as thickly or thinly as you would like!

 

Shaved Fennel

  1. Shaving your fennel will provide much thinner slices and can make it a fresh crunchy addition to many dishes.

  2. Using the same vegetable peeler that you used to remove the outer layers of your fennel, simply shave the rest down until you have reached your desired amount. Any remaining fennel can still be sliced using the directions above or saved for another day.