Hey there! I'm excited that you're here to learn about fennel. We're actually a herb, but when sold fresh, we're treated as a vegetable. Fresh fennel has a nice crunch and a mild flavour that resembles liquorice.
Let's dive into some interesting facts! First, I'm a round plump bulb vegetable, about 8-12cm wide, with a crunchy texture. During summer, you may find smaller, sweeter versions of me at your greengrocer. These baby fennels have softer stems compared to the larger ones. The base of the fennel consists of overlapping wide stems, forming a crisp and white to green bulb. And guess what?
Both the bulb stems and the feathery green leaves are edible!
Now, let me tell you about some fascinating beliefs people had about fennel throughout history. The Romans thought that snakes sucked our juice to improve their eyesight. The Greeks believed that we could help with weight loss, which is why they named a famous race after it called the "marathon" meaning to 'grow thin.' Even during the Middle Ages, our seeds were chewed in churches because they believed it would prevent hunger pangs during long services.
Have fun exploring and discovering all the amazing things about fennel!
We're available all year but we are our biggest and most abundant March to November
In Australia, we're not sold by variety. Just buy us as fennel! In summer, the small ones are sold as baby fennel.
We grow easily from seed and are generally planted in early spring. We're a tall plant growing to nearly 2 metres, with green, feathery leaves and a bulb at the base of the plant. Our leaves, stems and bulbs are used. We're harvested when mature by cutting our base from the roots just below our bulb.
Select those of us with firm, crisp white to pale green bulbs with feathery fresh leaves.
Keep us in a recyclable bag in your veggie crisper in the fridge. Use within 5 days.
80% of Australia’s fennel is grown in Victoria
We're an ancient plant thought to have come from the Mediterranean. The Romans used us as a food, as well as a medicine for good health. They cultivated us as a garden herb and we were so widely used that there were few types of meat seasoned or sauces served without us.
The Anglo-Saxons also used us as food and medicine. To them, we were a holy plant, being one of nine herbs valued in early times.
It was not until the Middle Ages, though, that Italians, driven by famine, first used us in cooking.
Some of our seed was brought out with the First Fleet in 1788, but what happened to it no one knows. It wasn't until the 1950s that our popularity increased in Australia due to the arrival of Italians and Greeks migrants.
The bulbs, stems and feathery green leaves can be eaten. Trim the base and cut off any thick outer leaves. Halve or quarter bulbs lengthways, chop or slice – it’s that simple!
Finely slice baby fennel and add to salads or slaws.
It can be roasted and braised. It’s excellent in casseroles and soups.
Here are some fun fennel recipes from Sydney Markets for you to try: