For a light delicate taste reminiscent of licorice and anise, choose Florence fennel.
Florence fennel–which is also known as bulb fennel and in Italy as finnochio—is a pale-green, feathery-topped vegetable, with celery-like stems and swollen bulb-like base of overlapping broad layers.
The harvest season for this cool-weather vegetable is early fall through spring.
How to Choose Florence Fennel
- Select fennel is unblemished with healthy stalks. Bulbs should look clean and crisp with no sign of browning.
- Bulbs are equally delicious large or small.
- Fat, broad bulbs may be tenderer than elongated bulbs.
- The leaves of fresh fennel are green, fluffy, and feathery.
How to Store Florence Fennel
- Fennel will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about 3-5 days.
- You can freeze fennel if you blanch it first.
How to Prep Florence Fennel
- Do not wash fennel until you are ready to use it. Chop off the stems and fronds where the pale bulb turns darker green. You can use the fronds as a garnish and seasoning. You can slice or chops the stems like celery.
- Prepare the bulb like an onion, cut it in half lengthwise through the bottom and stem ends. Trim and discard the bottom end.
- Fennel will be crisper for serving raw if you soak it in iced water for 30 minutes before serving.
Florence Fennel Serving Suggestions
- Use fennel raw or cooked after removing the tough outer leaves.
- Fennel can be served raw in wedges or sticks finely sliced in salads.
- Cook fennel as little as possible in order to preserve the flavor.
- Florence fennel can be grilled, braised, boiled, or sautéed. You can blanch, braise fennel with other vegetables. Purée cooked fennel, season with butter, salt, and pepper as a side dish.
- Slice, long uncooked fennel strips and add them to salads.
- Fennel greens can be used as a garnish or snipped into a salad or other cold dishes like you would dill. Stir fennel greens into hot dishes at the last minute to enhance the flavor.
- Fennel complements other vegetables and legumes, rabbit, pork, lamb, beef, fish, and seafood.
- Fennel seeds can be used to flavor cheese, bread, soups, sauces, pastries, and wine.
Florence Fennel Cooking Suggestions
- Fennel can be parboiled, steamed, boiled, stir-fried or sautéed, braised, baked, grilled, or chopped and added to soups.
- The flavor of Florence fennel is more delicate after it has been cooked.
How to Bake Florence Fennel
- Trim the fennel and halve it.
- Boil or steam the fennel in advance. To boil, bring a pot of water to a boil and lightly salt. Place the fennel in the boiling water until tender about 10 minutes. Then remove the fennel and plunge it in ice water to stop the cooking. (Fennel can be steamed over an inch of water.)
- Slice the chilled fennel thinly.
- Grease a small to medium baking dish with butter.
- Place the fennel in the dish and salt and pepper lightly
- Add 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Cook until the stock is absorbed and the cheese is lightly browned about 30 minutes.
How to Braise Florence Fennel
- Trim two fennel bulbs and thinly slice them.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a medium skillet or casserole with olive oil and turn the heat to medium.
- Add chopped onion and cook stirring until the onion softens about 5 minutes.
- Add the fennel and a bit of minced garlic and cook stirring for about 5 minutes.
- Add a half cup of chicken or vegetable stock; turn the heat to medium-low then cover and cook until the fennel is tender about 5 to 10 minutes more.
- Uncover and raise the heat if the liquid has not evaporated; cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add a flavorful vinegar and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
How to Grill Florence Fennel
- Trim the fennel and halve it; quarter the bulb if it is very large.
- Set the grill to medium-high heat.
- Baste the fennel with olive oil; sprinkle with curry powder or seasoning.
- Cook over direct heat turning occasionally until the fennel is tender and can be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle with lemon or orange juice and serve.
How to Make Fennel Soup
- Trim the fennel and halve then quarter then chopped the bulb into pieces. You will need about 1 pound of fennel.
- Put butter or olive oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat.
- When the butter or oil is hot, add the fennel pieces.
- Salt and pepper lightly and add 5 cups of vegetable stock (a half-cup of sour cream is optional).
- Cook stirring occasionally until the fennel is just soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan or cool the mixture and pour it cool into a blender and puree until smooth.
- Cover, refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- Reheat to serve hot or serve cold; adjust the seasoning as needed.
Florence Fennel Nutrition
- Fennel is an excellent source of potassium. It contains vitamin A, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
- There are 30 calories per cup.
Get to Know Florence Fennel
- The bulb of Florence fennel—which is actually a base of thickened, overlapping leaf stems–is about the size of a large fist. The stems which can grow from 12 to 30 inches (30-76 cm) tall look a lot like celery. The flesh of the slightly striated stems has the texture of tender, crisp celery.
- Growers sometimes earth up around the base of Florence fennel to blanch the bulb and make it even tenderer.
- Finnochio is the Italian word for fennel. It is thought that this hardy perennial originated near the Mediterranean at least four thousand years ago. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans cultivated fennel.
- The aromatic seeds and leaves of the non-bulbing form of fennel—known as common fennel—were used in ancient times as now as an anise or licorice flavoring.
- Common fennel is sometimes mistakenly called sweet anise.
- Florence fennel is grown primarily in Italy, France, Greece, and the United States.
The botanical name for Florence fennel is Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum.
The botanical name for common fennel which is grown for its seeds and pollen is Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce.
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