Also known as Foeniculum vulgare, Fennel is a species that yields both a herb and a spice. Hardy, perennial and umbelliferous with yellow flowers and feather-like leaves, the plant is native to the coast of the Mediterranean sea, though it has become widely spread across the much of the world.
Highly aromatic and flavourful, the herb is popular in culinary and medicine and is among the primary ingredients of absinthe, along with anise, which is similar in taste.
Often likened to a dill, Fennel grows to heights of 2.5 metres with hollow stems and leaves reaching 40 centimetres in length. Its flowers are yellow, grown in terminal compound umbels with approximately 30 tiny flowers. The bulb is white and fleshy, and its seeds are brown or green, often dried to be used as a spice.
Fennel seeds split into two, one sometimes remaining on the stalk. Measuring are 4 -8 mm long, they are thin and curved, and when dried they turn a dull grey colour. They are used commonly throughout the cuisines of Europe and Asia, a vital flavour component of spice blends such as Chinese Five Spice and liquors such as Absinthe and Aquavit.
last update by M 12/7/2012