Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a perennial herb that belongs to the carrot family and is native to the Mediterranean region. Its edible white bulb is treated as a vegetable, its leaves (which are similar in consistency to dill) like a herb, while its seed is treated as a spice and can be added to everything from breads to curry.
Fennel has a long history and is one of the oldest cultivated plants. During medieval times, people hung fennel above doorways, as they believed it warded off roaming evil spirits.
Fennel is a vegetable with a lot going for it. It’s crunchy and sweet when tossed raw into a salad, and once cooked it becomes silky soft. Raw or cooked, fennel has a faint flavour of liquorice or anise. Not so much that it overwhelms a dish, but just enough that it adds an interesting layer of flavour to the dishes in which it’s used.
Fennel is available throughout the autumn and winter months, making it the perfect addition to seasonal menus as the months cool from March through to August.
Fennel pairs beautifully with many flavours, but some of the heroes are apples, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, olive, chicken and fish.
Try a seasonal salad of raw fennel with big slices of heirloom tomatoes, olives, a fruity olive oil and vinegar.
Marinate in an orange juice vinaigrette and serve with rocket, orange segments and goat’s cheese.
Shave paper-thin and combine it with shredded green cabbage, apples and a creamy mayo for a new take on coleslaw.
Poach in olive oil and tomatoes for a fabulous sauce over pasta or fish.
Bake in a creamy gratin or roast with other root vegetables.
Caramelise with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice for a scrumptious side dish.
Simmer in stock for added depth of flavour.
Grown across the country but primarily in the Horowhenua and Manawatū regions.