Fennel is a seed spice from a tall, leggy, aromatic perennial of the parsley and carrot family. The fennel plant is now naturalised in many parts of the world, and is one of the oldest cultivated plants.
Native range Southern Europe, Mediterranean Region
Major producers India, Argentina, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Japan, USA
Harvesting The seeds are harvested when the fruits are mature and sage green in colour.
Taste and aroma Fennel has a sweet, warm, anise-liquorice aroma. The taste is slightly sweet with a hint of mild anise. Fennel seeds are less pungent than dill, and more astringent than anise.
Culinary uses Fennel is often used to complement fish, meat, and poultry dishes. Dry roasting the seeds brings out the sweetness. Ground fennel is used in many curry powders and in Chinese five spice powder. Crushed seeds are used in salad dressings, and in savoury and sweet baking.
Other uses Indians often chew fennel after a meal as a breath freshener and digestive aid. Fennel oil is used in cough medicine, liquorice sweets, perfumes, and soaps.
Historical uses The Romans enjoyed fennel shoots as a vegetable, and the Chinese and Indians valued fennel as a condiment and digestive aid.
Storage Fennel seed will keep for up to 2 years when stored in an airtight container.