With its wispy fronds and bulbous base, fennel looks like a feather-topped, potbellied cousin to celery. But its flavor is remarkably different. The white bulb and bright green fronds have a gentle, slightly sweet anise flavor. The stalks of fennel are tough and usually not eaten.
How to Choose and Store Fennel
- In many areas, fennel is available year-round; however, its peak season is October through April.
- Look for crisp, clean bulbs without brown spots or blemishes. The wispy fronds on top should be bright green and fresh looking.
- Once home, refrigerate fennel, tightly wrapped, for up to 5 days.
- Place the fennel horizontally on a cutting surface. Using a sharp chef's knife, carefully cut about 1 inch above the fennel bulb to remove the stalks.
- Cut a few of the bright green fronds from the stalks to save as a garnish for the dish. To keep the fronds fresh while the dish cooks, rinse them in cool tap water. Pat them dry, then wrap in plastic wrap or place in a resealable plastic storage bag until ready to use.
- Remove and discard any wilted outer layers of the bulb.
- Place one hand toward the top of the fennel bulb to steady it. Using a sharp knife, cut a thin slice off the root end of the fennel bulb. Discard the root.
- Wash the fennel under cool, clear tap water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Stand the fennel bulb upright on its root end. Steadying the bulb with one hand, cut the bulb in half lengthwise from the stalk clear through to the root end.
Follow instructions given with a recipe on how to slice fennel. If no specific instructions are given, and the recipe calls for fennel chopped, sliced, or cut into wedges, follow these instructions.
For Chopped Fennel:
Cut each fennel half lengthwise into two pieces to make quarters. Cut away and discard the tough core portion from each quarter. Then, cut the fennel quarters into irregular pieces as follows:
- For finely chopped fennel, cut 1/8-inch pieces or smaller.
- For medium-size chopped fennel, cut 1/4-inch pieces or smaller
- For coarsely chopped fennel, cut 1/4-inch pieces or larger.
To Cut Fennel into Wedges:
- Cut each fennel half lengthwise into two pieces to make quarters.
- Cut away and discard the tough core portion from each quarter.
- Slice the fennel lengthwise into wedges
- Remove the tough core from the fennel half by cutting a wedge-shape piece from the top of the tough core through the bottom. Discard the core.
- Place the bulb half, cut side down, on a cutting surface.
- Using a chef's knife, slice the bulb lengthwise into thin strips
How to Use Fennel:
When you want to bring an anise-like flavor and crisp crunch to a recipe, you can use fennel much like you would celery:
- Chopped or sliced for soups, stir-fries, and cooked vegetable medleys
- Thinly sliced and served raw in salads
- Cut into wedges and cooked alongside pot roasts
And what about those pretty bright-green fronds? A sprig on a plate makes a graceful garnish, while a few snipped leaves can add a fascinating licorice-like flavor to dishes.
Fennel recipes to try: