You’ve probably had fennel before, either the seeds or cooked. Raw fennel has the crunch of celery without the strings or the overly watery beefed up celery you get sometimes. Fennel seeds can be quite tasty but I still can’t get over the fact that my grade school pizzas were covered in fennel seeds which made a gross pizza nastier by giving the appearance of bugs all over. Anyway, cooked fennel is quite delicious and most people eat it that way. By cooking fennel, it reduces the anise flavor. Although fennel may have a slight anise flavor, fennel and anise are different plants (and so is licorice). People often call anise fennel, but of the anise plant, only the seeds are actually eaten. Licorice makers often add anise to their black licorice, but anise is actually NOT black licorice, which has a much stronger flavor. Fennel does have a subtle anise (but not licorice) flavor, but don’t let that stop you from trying it! A few health benefits: fennel contains quercitin, a natural anti-inflammatory, which is awesome for my family’s allergies in the summer months, it also contains vitamin c, folate and fiber. A bulb of fennel has about 70 calories and 7 grams of fiber. Eat up!
My Italian aunt used to always prepare fennel (and a myraid of other things) for everyone at family gatherings for us to snack on before we ate our meal later on. I kinda forgot about it until my cousin Erica brought it to a family event last summer. It was the first thing gone – everyone was so excited to have it again! Of course, all of us grew up with it so we knew what it was…if you bring it to an event, some people may be afraid of it since they’ve never had it and it could just sit there untouched. If so, call me and I will come over and literally eat all of it. No big deal. I usually maneuver my way over to the fennel Erica brings and hover in hopes that no one will notice I’m eating it all. It’ll probably just be easier to explain what it is though.
Raw Fennel With Lemon and Olive Oil:
- Remove celery looking stalks and cut base (a half inch to an inch, you can always cut off more if you think it needs it) – discard
- Rinse, and cut in half (a vertical cut if you’re thinking of it standing up whole)
- Remove inside core, discard
- Remove outer layer – you can still eat this if you peel it with a vegetable peeler, otherwise, the outer layer will most likely be too tough to eat
- If too much of the base is still stuck on the fennel, remove that portion
- Quarter the inside like an apple (Cut the halves in half) – and you may cut them smaller if you’d like
- Lay out on your serving dish and drizzle with olive oil and juice of half of lemon, use rest of lemon for garnish or more flavor later.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper