Fun with Fennel
Take a look at fennel this month. It’s in-season, fresh, and full of versatility. Both types of fennel, common and Florence, offer a distinctive licorice flavor in varying degrees.
Common green fennel stands impressive in the garden, three to five feet high with feathery fronds and a large, flat cluster of yellow flowers. The flowers produce the oval, greenish brown fennel seed used in curries, cakes, seafood and pork sausage, while the feathery leaves taste delicious used in pasta, soups, salads and basting sauces.
Like common fennel, Florence fennel (also called finocchio) has edible, bright green feathery leaves and pale green celery-like stems or stalks, but cooks and diners prize it for the bulbous white base. The broad, ribbed leafstalks overlap each other at the base to form the firm bulb. The three to four inch wide, whitish bulb grows above ground and may be enjoyed raw or cooked.
To prepare, rinse fennel well and trim stalks to the area where they meet the top of the bulb. Cut off the base, leaving about 1/8 inch near the root to hold the fennel together during cooking. Remove any dry outer leaves. Slice in half lengthwise to boil, or cut into julienne strips or dice to add to soups or salads.
To appreciate the full robust flavor of raw fennel, serve it with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt as an appetizer. Thinly shave the fennel bulb on a mandoline if desired or cut into long slivers before marinating in a mixture of juice of half a lime, two tablespoons olive oil and a half-teaspoon salt. Pair with a nice chunk of fresh Parmesan cheese and serve.
Roast wedges of fennel to serve as a side dish. Cut each bulb into four or five sections before placing the cut side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until the wedges become silky and caramelized around the edges.
Fennel vs. anise? The seeds, stalks and flowers of both plants do look similar, but that’s as far as it goes. The only real edible part of the anise plant is its seeds. The entire fennel plant is edible. Anise is an annual, and fennel is a perennial. Anise is typically the more pungent of the two, while fennel tends to be sweeter and less intense. Remember, now is the time to enjoy fresh fennel and the Orinda Farmers’ Market.
The convenience of pre-ordering and curbside pick-up from the Orinda Farmers’ Market is available by downloading Tap4Markets from your mobile app store.
The Orinda market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. More information is available at www.cccfm.org,
facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket, or call the market hotline at 925.431.8361.
Barbara Kobsar sells her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies at the JAM STAND at the Saturday Orinda market and the Sunday Walnut Creek market. She is also president of CCCFM (Contra Costa Certified Farmers Market) Association Board of Directors.