Fennel yields both a herb and a spice. All plant parts are edible; roots, stalks and leaves, with the spice coming from the dried seeds. A native to the Mediterranean, Fennel is an ancient and common plant known to ancient Greeks and spread throughout Europe by Imperial Rome. It is also grown in India, the Orient, Australia, South America and has become naturalized in the US. It has been called “meeting seed” by the Puritans who would chew it during their long church Services.
As a herb, fennel leaves are used in French and Italian cuisine’s in sauces for fish and in mayonnaise. In Italy fennel is also used to season pork roasts and spicy sausages, especially the Florentine salami finocchiona. It is traditionally considered one of the best herbs for fish dishes. The English use fennel seeds in almost all fish dishes, especially as a court bouillon for poaching Fish and seafood. It is used to flavour breads, cakes and confectionary.
Fennel is a hardy perennial related to parsley, often cultivated as an annual, reaching height of 1.50-2.50 metres. It resembles dill, which it can cross pollinate with. It should be kept at a distance from dill because the resulting seed will have a dulled flavour. The flower heads are collected before the seeds ripen and theshed out when completely dried.