Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) has tiny, light green, curved fruits (commonly called seeds) with a sweetly refreshing liquorice-anise flavour. Fennel seed is used for meats and poultry, but even more for fish and seafood. In Italy, aniseed is reserved for sweets and fennel for savoury dishes.
Italians, who first cultivated fennel, use the seeds to season pork, boar, rabbit, fresh sausage, fish, and seafood. It’s popular in southern France, where it’s often found in the mixture herbes de Provence. In central Europe, it’s used to flavour rye bread and for pickled vegetables and herb vinegar. Fennel is a main component of Chinese five-spice powder and the Bengali spice mix panch phoron, and in Sri Lanka, the toasted seeds go into fiery curries. Fennel seed is much used in Iran, the Arab world, and the Levant. Prized Lucknow fennel seeds, from Lucknow, India, are brighter, smaller, sweeter, and more aromatic than common fennel. In India, they are often served after dinner as a breath freshener and digestive.
Though the leaves of cultivated fennel don’t have much flavour, those of wild fennel are quite flavourful. Fennel pollen, an expensive spice with a spicy yet ethereal fennel scent, is used in Italy and is now being produced in California. Fennel pollen should be added just before serving.
- Other Names
- Fennel seed: Aneth doux or fenouil (French); fenchel (German); finocchio (Italian); finokio (Portuguese); hinojo (Spanish); jintan manis (Indonesian); maratho (Greek); mellet karee (Thai); razianaj (Arabic); saunf (Hindi); shamari (Swahili); shumar (Hebrew); sweet cumin; tieu hoi huong (Vietnamese); ukrop sladki (Russian); xiao hue xiang (Chinese). Fennel pollen: Polline di finocchio selvatico (Italian); spice of the angels
- Fennel pollen is in season in late summer after the flowers open. Fresh fennel seeds can be picked in late summer.
- Purchase and Avoid
- Look for dried fennel seeds with bright green colour. Specialty producers may offer fennel pollen.
- Store fennel pollen in the refrigerator.
Make risotto with tomatoes and thyme and sprinkle with fennel pollen just before serving.
Marinate vegetables and seafood with ground fennel seeds and olive oil.
Use ground fennel seeds to season polenta, fresh pork sausage, tomato-based pasta sauces, and game such as boar, rabbit, and venison.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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