What is it?
Fennel is part of the umbellifer family, making it a relative of the carrot. Florence fennel is a relatively modern cultivar of the herb, a plant indigenous to the Mediterranean.
Florence fennel offers two in one, with it’s bulbous base, a substantial vegetable in itself, as well as the wispy fronds. Both have a cool, aniseed flavour.
What to do with it?
Quickly prepare fennel by chopping of the stalks, so you’re left with the bulb. Keep the lacey fronds for use later.
When the bulb is cooked, the intense aniseed hit is mellowed. Try it in a tomatoey stew with beans or roast it whole until the outer edges are crispy and the bulb is tender within.
Use it to add a depth of flavour to stocks, which is a good way to use the stalks (chop them up and stick them in freezer until you’re ready to use them).
Eaten raw, it provides a refreshing crunch. Try it finely sliced in a leafy or tomato salad. Try this salad with garlicky chickpeas and baked cheese, or this potato salad with fennel and broad beans. Or slice it into a slaw with grated beetroot, kohl rabi and apple – add a splash of good quality organic oil (rapeseed or olive), and a handful of flaked almonds and seeds, and serve as a side.
The fronds make a beautiful addition to salads, or add to hot water for a delicous tea. If you’d prefer a slightly stronger beverage, try it in a cocktail.
It is complimented by apple or oranges – add them to a fennel based salad. Fennel is one of the main flavours in traditional Italian sausages, and goes well with pork.
How to store it
It keeps best in the fridge. Prevent the tops from going limp by popping the whole fennel, bulbs and fronds, into a plastic container, and only separate when you’re ready to the use them
When is it in season
Mid-summer to autumn