Fennel is perhaps one of the most confusing plants that you can bring into your kitchen. Looks like a very odd onion, tastes nothing like an onion. Has dill-like fronds, they taste nothing like dill. The stalks look like celery, but taste nothing like celery. So what can you do with fennel, how can you use it ? Ad are fennel seeds from this same plant, or are they something else ? Can you eat raw fennel or do you always have to cook it, like with potatoes ? Here’s what I know.
Can you eat fennel raw ?
Some parts of the fennel plant can be eaten raw. For example the bulb is just fine raw, on its own, as long as it’s very thinly sliced like on a mandoline, or julienne if you have very good knife skills. The fronds are also good raw, the thinner ones at least, and they can be used as garnish or as any other herb.
The stalks are generally stringy and take a long time to cook since they’re tough. I don’t recommend eating the stalks raw, but a fine chop and a 15 minutes simmer will help get them in an edible state.
As for fennel seeds, those can be eaten raw but their best use is lightly toasted and then simmered with your food.
What does fennel taste like ?
Fennel plant, especially when cooked, has a flavor very similar to anise or licorice. If you’ve ever had fennel seeds, it’s just like that, but the whole plant. When eaten raw, the bulb can have an earthy and green background flavor, with the anise high note. Depending on what you pair it with it can be a very good idea. Red meat and game are some of the best options, as are starches like potato or even sweet potato.
When adding fennel fronds to your meal, keep in mind the thinnest parts will cook through very quickly so it’s best to add them near the end if you want them to retain some texture and color. Or, you can chop them up and sprinkle them right on top of your meal.
Read also: How To Reheat Fish And Chips Easy At Home
Can you eat fennel leaves ?
you can eat fennel leaves, through they’re best used as a garnish for presentation or chopped and added to a salad like an herb. They don’t have much substance to them, so they can’t really be eaten like iceberg lettuce or spinach leaves. But if you want to add something suitable for a salad from your fennel plant, consider the bulb. When finely sliced (either mandolin or julienne, the result is the same) the bulb will be quite easy to eat in any old salad.
Is raw fennel hard to digest ?
Fennel bulb can be a bit fibrous, more than celery stalks or onions. So while 100g of raw onion can get you 1.7 grams of fiber, fennel can get you 3.1 grams of fiber. If you’re looking to add more dietary fiber to your meals, fennel is a great option. It’s right up there with carrot (2.8g), broccoli (2.6g), cabbage (2.5g), and eggplant (3g).
Due to the higher fiber content, you may experience some bloating and gas when eating raw fennel. To get around this, consider simmering it lightly or parboiling it, just to soften it a little and then your gut will have an easier time digesting.
Read also: What Does Coriander Taste Like ?
Consider trying roast fennel
Raw fennel is pretty good on its own, but there are several ways to prepare it that won’t necessarily make it bland. And if you’re worried about keeping calories low, why not try roasting ? It’s a cooking method that will soften the fennel, turn some parts a little crispy, bring out the natural sweetness in any vegetable, and it smells delicious. You can add absolutely zero oil, or drizzle just enough to make sure it won’t stick to your pan. Or you can use parchment paper instead, with the shiny part facing the veggies.
Make sure your oven is hot before you cook ! Preheat it to maximum.
To roast fennel, you have to cut it up a little. Most of the time it will come without fronds and leaves, and will have just a bit of the stalks leftover. Rinse the fennel thoroughly in cold, clean water, then decide how large or small you want to cut the pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster it will cook though it may lose texture. The larger the pieces, the better the texture but cooking takes longer and you will need to cover it with foil in the first half of cooking.
The stalks need more cook time, so cut those off the bulb and chop them finely to they can roast separately.
Once you decide on the size, start cutting. I recommend you go with thinner slices instead of thicker ones. Make sure the pieces are all the same size, so they all cook evenly. Place the fennel slices on the parchment-lined baking sheet, add your favorite condiment, optionally add a small amount of cooking oil. If the slices are thicker cover with a bit of aluminum foil.
Place the tray in the hot oven, and give the fennel about 10 minutes. Check on them every 2-3 minutes until they turn golden-brown at the edges. If cooking with foil on top, remove the foil after the first 10 minutes and follow the same instructions.
Or, if the weather isn’t against you and you’ve got the time, grill the fennel instead of roasting it. Comes out even better, but you may need the thicker slices there.