Florence Bulb Fennel is not Anise, although it seems to be labeled as Fennel/Anise everywhere today. Florence Bulb Fennel, should be bought fresh at the Farmers Market. It is particularly hard to grow in a garden because it easily cross-pollinate, so it needs lots of isolated space, also, rich soil, spoils its wonderful oils, aromas and nutrients, which are best as soon as possible after harvesting. The bulb is used and eaten as a vegetable, while the feathery leaves are used as herbs. Here it’s used in my steam-fry recipe.
Culinary and medical uses for fennel are almost endless. The sliced bulb is a sweet crunchy addition used raw in a salad: or marinated with other anti-pasta ingredients, or simply drizzled with a flavorful olive oil, Sciabica’s comes to mind with a pinch of Real Salt* sea salt then grilled on the BBQ. The bulb has long been a favorite in Mediterranean, Indian, and Middle-Eastern cuisine, well just about every where, but it seems new to us. The stocks are useful in soups and stews, while the feathers, add aromatic drama and flavor. Fennel seed is used as a seasoning, it’s great in fresh sausage. Deserts like cookies, cakes, candy, and puddings often call for fennel. Perhaps this is where the confusion with anise comes from. Anise is sometimes substituted for liquorice in candy making, because it’s so much cheaper. All three have a similar aroma, but all three are different, fennel is sweeter and lighter, anise is a cheep substitute for true liquorice, and liquorice, is a strong powerful herb, that the real candy is made from.
The medical benefits of fennel are as endless as the culinary uses. Here’s a list of just a few.
Weight-floss, anti-inflammatory, relief of chronic cough, relief of upper respiratory stress, colic in babies, menstrual cramps, flatulence, bloating, indigestion, improve eye health, improve lactation for breast-feeding mothers, and it can be placed around animals to deter fleas. I’ve read that in the middle ages people chewed the seeds during church services, to stop flatulence.
This is a fantastic food, and spice, and not only does it taste great, there are all the health benefits too. Right now it is fresh at the Farmer’s Market.