This week’s share contains a new offering: fennel! It has a unique history as well as flavor. In ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, people believed it was an aid for digestion, bronchial troubles, poor eyesight, and nervous conditions. The fennel seed is used today in India for seasoning their dishes, and it is chewed after meals as a breath freshener and digestive aid. Low in calories, fennel offers us significant amounts of Vitamin A and calcium, potassium and iron. Every part of this versatile vegetable can be used: the leaves, bulb and stalk are all edible.
Here are some suggestions for storing your fennel: You’ll notice the feathery leaves are delicate. Wrap them in a moist towel and store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. It’s preferable to use these within a couple of days, as they have a tendency to go limp after that time. They complement fish beautifully. Try them in place of dill, serving on baked or broiled fish, with a little butter and lemon. The bulbs can be placed in a zip-loc bag and stored in the crisper drawer, as you would store leeks.
To prepare, wash the bulbs and trim off the base as you would an onion. Remove the tough outer one or two layers. The clear white frond inside may then be cut into slices, cubes or sticks as needed for your recipes. At this time, try a taste of this crunchy vegetable–it resembles anise in flavor.
Fennel can be used in place of celery in most recipes. It can be baked, steamed or sautéed. For those of you who are new to this vegetable, try it out by cutting it into quarters, drizzle with olive oil, and bake until tender, about 35 minutes. It can easily be steamed and dressed with a little olive oil, lemon juice, chopped chives or green onion, salt and pepper. Raw fennel slices can be added to a veggie tray and used with vegetable dip. Or enjoy its natural flavor by dipping into a small bowl of extra virgin olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper.