The season for fennel runs from spring through the first frost, so that’s when you’re most likely to find it at the farmers' market. Fennel is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used to help heal bronchitis, clear the lungs, and calm a cough. Note that contrary to popular misconception, fennel and anise are not one and the same. They belong to the same family and have a similar licorice-like flavor but are different plants; fennel is used as a vegetable, while the only culinary use for anise comes from its seeds, often called for in baking, for flavoring alcohol, and to make essential oil.
Fennel is looking gorgeously fresh at the farmers' market so light and flavorful fennel soup is on the menu this week. My recipe for Triple Fennel Soup comes from my latest work, The Sage and the Cook: Two Generations of Gluten and Dairy Free Recipes, an e-book in collaboration with whole foods pioneer Rebecca Wood.
Fennel bulb, seeds, and feathery fronds join forces here, and if you save the fennel stalks and cores for soup stock, you will be making tasty good use of the whole vegetable.
Another way to use the stalks is to make Rebecca Wood’s Honey Pickled Kohlrabi, an end-of-meal digestive so tasty you might mistake it for candy. In the digestion department, fennel is used for heartburn, gas, bloating, and as an all-around assimilation aid. That’s why you’ll often find fennel seeds to chew on as you exit an Indian restaurant (stick to the plain seeds and skip the multicolored candy-coated ones).
Leda Scheintaub’s latest work is The Sage and the Cook: Two Generations of Gluten and Dairy Free Cooking, an e-book series in collaboration with whole foods pioneer Rebecca Wood. The first book in the series is Soups and Stews, available from Amazon for $2.99. She is also the coauthor (with Denise Mari) of the forthcoming Organic Avenue; coauthor (with Carol Alt) of Easy, Sexy Raw; the recipe developer for The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto; and author of Chipotle: Smoky Hot Recipes for All Occasions. She is currently at work on The Cultured Table: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Celebrating the World of Fermentation, to be published by Rizzoli in fall 2014. She has been a freelance writer, editor, and recipe tester for the past ten years and lives with her husband in southern Vermont, where you’ll often find her at the Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market.
Fennel image courtesy of Shutterstock