What to do with fennel?

October 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm (How to cook)


A colleague recently asked me what I do with fennel.  I figured the easiest way to answer is to simply post a list of my favorite fennel recipes.

Favorite fennel recipes

Raw fennel:

  • Very thinly sliced and added to any green salad, or cut into thicker chunks and eaten with a dip like hummus.
  • In a warm or cold salad with beets and hard-cooked eggs
  • In a coleslaw, for example with apples, red cabbage, and pomegranate

Cooked fennel:

If you have a favorite fennel recipe, please post a link in the comments!

When is Fennel in season?

Fennel doesn’t have a clear season.  In theory it can be grown as a perennial plant, but it can’t withstand hard freezes, nor does it enjoy hot weather, so most often it’s grown as an annual.  Depending on the climate, it may be harvested in summer, fall, or winter, and sometimes even in spring!  In colder climates fennel is planted in early spring after the last frost.  After germination, fennel requires between 75 and 115 days before it’s ready to harvest. So if fennel seedlings are planted in April they could be ready to harvest sometime in July.  In Pittsburgh I used to get fennel in my CSA box in July, and then again in October and November.  The GrowNYC website lists fennel as in season in October and November, implying that it’s planted in New York in early summer.   In moderate climates like California fennel is often planted in late summer, whereas in warmer climates, like Texas, it’s most often planted in autumn, and ready for harvesting sometime in the winter.  If there are no hard freezes, autumn-planted fennel can even survive the winter and be harvested in early spring.

A word about nutrition.

Despite its wan appearance, fennel is not just empty calories.  It’s an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of potassium, and a good source of many other minerals.  One medium bulb (234g or 8.25 oz) has just 73 calories (3.7% of a 2000 calorie diet) but when eaten raw supplies 47% of the RDA of vitamin C, 28% of potassium, 16% of folate, 12% of calcium, 10% of iron, 10% of magnesium, and 8% of vitamin B3 (Niacin).  It also provides 7.25g of fiber (29% of the RDA of 25mg a day).  Finally, Fennel contains many phytonutrients that act as powerful antioxidants.

Storage

Fennel seems to last quite a while in the fridge, if it’s not cut up.  If it’s sliced and left in a tupperware overnight, however, it turns brown pretty quickly.  Anyone know why?  Why doesn’t the vitamin C protect it from oxidation?

You can save any cut-out cores, bottom slides, and green stalks  in the freezer, and use them when you make vegetable broth.  Many vegetable broth recipes call for fennel stalks instead of celery.  I often use both.  Or save the cores for a mixed-vegetable braise along with chard stems and whatever other veggies you have on hand.  The hearts of the fennel get the best texture when braised.

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2 Comments

  1. Therese De La Soya said,

    Therese’s Baked Fennel:

    This is a simple recipe where the fennel flavor is very robust and not covered up. It’s simple and it’s vegan. Enjoy!

    slice the fennel like you would an onion and place on a deep cookie sheet with a thin layer of olive oil
    add olives or tomato slices
    add lemon/lime juice or chopped orange slices
    add white vinegar or italian herb infused vinegar
    top with salt, pepper, fennel seeds, and some of the fine fennel leaves

    Cover with a cookie sheet to maintain moisture.
    Add a little water if the bottom gets dry.
    Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour or until tender.

  2. austingardener said,

    Fennel is ready to harvest in my Texas garden right now. Mid March.

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