Fennel, an upright perennial herb that grows three to ten feet tall. The plant contains thick, ribbed, hollow stems that grow from its rooted bulb (known as the crown). Green branches and feathery foliage sprout off the stems. As the plant matures it creates an umbrella-shaped cluster of bright yellow flowers. Every element of the Fennel plant from crown to flower is edible. It has a sweet, licorice-like flavor and citrus notes. Fennel is often harvested for its smaller bulbs, which are the most fragrant and succulent.
Fennel is available year-round with a peak season during the fall and winter months.
Fennel is entirely edible. Cook the stalks as you would the bulb, or top dished with chopped fronds for garnish. Thoroughly rinse Fennel as dirt can become lodged inside while it's growing. Slice and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast with other root vegetables. Shave or thinly slice and add raw to green salads, with blood orange segments and olives. Saute with onions as a base for risotto. Slice and layer with onions and mustard seeds in a pastry crust for a savory tart. Dice and cook slowly in olive oil until caramelized, then toss with fresh pasta. May also be used in sweet preparations: add to custards and freeze into ice cream. Fennel will keep, dry, in the refrigerator for up to a week.