What Is Fennel, and How Do I Use It?

Good Questions

Q: I keep hearing how fennel is in season. What is it, and what are innovative ways to use it?

Sent by Brie

Editor: Brie, fennel is a bulbous vegetable with a tall, wispy, fronded top that looks rather like dill. The fronds can be used in salads, but the main attraction of fennel is the bulb itself. It's very firm and crunchy, and it tastes a bit like licorice and anise. It has a fresh, bright taste and it's one of our favorite vegetables for salads and slaws. It can also be grilled or braised until tender.

The bulb is made of overlapping layers of vegetable, almost like a cabbage — but very firm and hard. To be used in salads, fennel should be sliced very thin, and it's easiest to do this with a mandoline.

Here are some past posts and recipes that incorporate fennel:

Virtual CSA Box: Fennel
Recipe: Fennel, Orange, and Shallot Salad
Recipe: Fennel and Radicchio Winter Salad with Pecans
Recipe Review: Fennel Braised in Pernod
Recipe: Fresh Fennel and Lemon Slaw
Recipe: Cream-Braised Fennel a la Orangette

Readers, any tips on working with fennel? Favorite recipes?

Related: What Can I Do With Fennel Tops and Fronds?

(Image: Faith Durand)

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