What is Fennel?

Fresh fennel bulb
Fresh fennel bulb. clubfoto / Getty Images

Fennel is a plant with aromatic leaves, stalk, and bulb whose flavor is similar to anise or tarragon.

The bulb of the fennel plant can be prepared and eaten as a vegetable. Fennel can be braised, grilled, sautéed or sliced thinly and served in salads. The stalks of the fennel plant can be cooked or eaten raw as well. Fennel stalks can be used for making vegetable stock. Fennel pairs well with fish, particularly salmon.

The seeds of the fennel plant can be used as a spice, either ground or whole. Fennel seeds are featured in Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, and they are a frequent ingredient used in making sausages. Fennel seeds are one of the five ingredients in the traditional Chinese five spice blend. Fennel seed is also one of the ingredients used in making absinthe.

While the fennel fronds or leaves are not usually eaten, they are flavorful and aromatic. While sometimes used as a garnish, fennel fronds can also be used as a base for roasting fish, such as trout. It's also great to stuff the cavity of the fish with fennel fronds or thin slices of the fennel bulb.

Fennel fronds can also add aromatics to a roasted chicken by stuffing them into the bird before roasting.

Also Known As:

  • Florence fennel
  • Sweet fennel
  • Sweet anise
  • Finocchio