FENNEL: A “FERNY” BACKGROUND BEAUTY
My bronze and green fennels are absolutely beautiful with their tall, stately, yet delicate looking fern like leaves. They act as willowy sentries in my herb garden. And they were one of the very few perennials who withstood our harsh winter. Fennel is mentioned as one of the tithing herbs in the Bible.
The name fennel comes from the Roman word for fragrant hay. And both green fennel, grown for it’s bulb, and bronze, grown for its leaves and seeds, have a faint licorice aroma and taste. It is one of the spices in Chinese five spice powder and the Indians have been using it in curry for thousands of years. Fennel is related to parsley, carrots and dill, the umbelliferae family.
Even during Bible days, fennel was an important herb and veggie. The Romans used the seeds on bread and mixed the leaves into salads. The Greeks ate the stalks as well as the leaves, and the Greek word for fennel means marathon. That tells a lot about this herb, which is full of vitamins A and C, iron, fiber and antioxidants.
This hardy perennial dies back to the ground in the winter. Fennel can get over 4 feet tall, so take that into consideration when planting in a sunny or even somewhat shady location. Swallowtail butterflies love fennel and so I always plant a few extra just for them to make their “home”.
Because of its anise/licorice like flavor, you may find bulbs of fennel labeled as “anise” at the grocery. The leaves and seeds make a great paste for pork combined with olive oil and garlic. And the seeds are an important ingredient in Italian sausages.
Try roasting fennel bulbs: cut into thick slices, brush with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and roast in a 425 degree oven until cooked through yet still a little crisp, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Manchego, Romano or Parmesan.
Roasted Fennel – Pass the Manchego!