So the good news: fennel is closely related to carrots, celery, parsley, and dill, members of the Umbel family. The bad news: It doesn’t really taste much like them. Fennel is a beast of its own stripe, with a rich history of people trying to figure out what to do with it. In Greek myths, the gods would often impart knowledge to humans in the form of a fiery coal contained in a stalk of fennel. Perhaps the hope was that the coal would light the fennel on fire and no one would have to eat it. The ancient Greeks also wore crowns made of fennel leaves. Again, their wish was that with enough hair grease and lice on the fennel, they wouldn’t have to eat it either. But enough of piling on to poor fennel! I am committed to giving it several chances to prove itself. Please pass on any recipes that put this poor crop to good use. And no, using the leaves as a feather duster does not count.
The whole crop is edible, with the leafy fronds a common ingredient in soups and baked dishes, and the bulbs used for stir-fries and roasting. The bulbs can be substituted in any recipe calling for celery. For a good starter into the world of fennel, try it baked: cut into quarters, drizzle with olive oil, and bake until tender, about 35 min at 350°.
To store: The bulbs will last for two weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge. The leaves will go limp, and should be wrapped in a moist towel in the fridge.
From September 4, 2009 Fox & Fawn Farm Newsletter