By Kelly Saxer, Desert Roots Farm
As I go over the Fall planting schedule here at Desert Roots Farm, I see fennel on the list and absolutely can’t wait until we start harvesting those first fennel bulbs in December. Fennel is by far one of the tastiest and most versatile vegetables we grow. But at the same time, it is one of the least understood and most overlooked vegetables by consumers who are often overwhelmed and confused by the big white bulb and large feathery fronds.
Next time you see fresh fennel at the local farmer’s market or in your weekly CSA, share! Don’t be scared, but get excited to try something new and fantastic! Fennel is one of the most versatile plants there is, every bit of the plant can be used including the root, stalk, leaves and seeds. It tastes similar to anise (a little like black licorice). Fennel has many culinary uses – the feathery leaves are a favorite in Italian and French cooking as the main ingredient in many fish seasonings and sauces. It is also used to flavor breads, candies and cakes. My personal favorite fennel dessert was a lemon-fennel cheesecake that I had at a restaurant several years ago. The fennel bulb can be used in salads, dressing, sauces and dips. It is often shaved thin and added to salads or sandwiches, and makes a nice addition to Italian antipasto platters.
And if all this isn’t enough to convince you to give fennel a try, it’s said that during Medieval times, fennel was thought to fight off evil spirits! The herb was used to jam keyholes and hung on doorways to protect homes.
Here’s one of my favorite and simplest ways to enjoy fennel:
Roasted Fennel Recipe
- 2 bulbs fennel, stalks removed
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon juice
Line a baking dish with foil. Heat oven to 375°. Slice fennel bulbs into several thin wedges. Brush all over with olive oil and arrange in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender, turning the slices after about 15 minutes. Serves 4.