A perennial plant, the ever-aromatic fennel finds its way on to many plates during the months of spring.
Considered similar to the anise plant in flavor, fennel contains a subtle licorice flavor that accentuates a variety of salads. This doesn’t mean, however, that fennel’s use is limited only to leafy green salads. In fact, excluding the roots, the entire the vegetable, from the small yellow flowers (known as fennel “pollen”) to the dried and aromatic fennel seeds, and of course the crisp lightly flavored bulb, can be used in cooking. All these usable parts of the fennel plant yield a variety of anise-like flavors and a surprising assortment of textures.
The vegetable itself resembles an onion. Originally native to Mediterranean soil, fennel has taken root in many different parts of the world. It thrives to its fullest in the dry, sandy soil found along coastlines and riverbeds.
Preparing this vegetable is quite simple, once you have the proper know-how. Here, Andy Varela, chef and owner of Maitland Mountain Farm in Salem, Mass., teaches you how to prepare this vegetable for its many varieties of use.
With a little knife work and a creative mind, fennel makes for a surprising treat in a vast assortment of meals.
Remove the fronds, or the stalks, and leaves of fennel plant. Set aside for use in salads or for aromatics. Remove the root cluster from the bottom of the bulb and discard. To remove the rest of the roots in the bulb, slice the bulb in half lengthwise and make a V-shaped incision around the fibrous root center. Then, simply pull out the triangular slice of the root center. Once the root and stalks are removed, slice the fennel bulb as desired.
Recipe courtesy of Andy Varela, Maitland Mountain Farm, 2013.