Fennel – from leaf to root

Fennel – from leaf to root

Aniseed in stick form

Many people don't know whether to remove the fennel stalks and leaves or leave them on. I have a third alternative – why not use them separately! The stalks and leaves make fantastic cooking ingredients.

The aniseed flavour is surprisingly more potent in these parts of the vegetable than in the bulb. Fennel belongs to the same family as aniseed. Just like with aniseed, the second cuts of fennel can also be used in sweet desserts. I use them to make confectionery and syrup (see recipe in the Recipes section further down the page). I like to use fennel syrup to add flavour to fruit salads – it complements the apple perfectly.

The stalks

One very simple way to use fennel stalks is to grate them finely in a salad. You can get around the tough texture by slicing the stalks very thinly – it tends to be the fibres that sometimes make the stalks inedible.

The leaves

Fennel leaves are not just pretty to look at, but they also taste great. Seasoned salt made with fennel leaves makes a great addition to the kitchen. Alternatively, you can use the leaves to make a herb oil – just like celebrity chef Simon Sommer, who cooks up top-notch vegetable dishes in Berne. "You mix a large bunch of fennel leaves with oil, ideally on a one-to-one ratio", he explains. He uses the oil to enhance fennel dishes and salad dressings.

There are also some very traditional ways to use fennel leaves. One of my friends in Beijing – who imports Italian wine to China and also loves to cook – told me that one of the most popular fillings for Jiǎozi (Chinese dumplings) uses pork and fennel leaves. He told me that in Chinese medicine, fennel leaves are considered to be healthy as they help with digestion.

Homemade dumplings are not for everyone as they take a fair bit of effort. And if time is not on your side, you can simply use the leaves raw. As a general rule, if a recipe calls for dill, you can also use fennel leaves as the two are very closely related.


Fennel salt

The leaves can be used quickly and easily to make a seasoned salt. If you have a lot of leaves, they can also make a great little gift for friends. Simply tear the leaves from the stalks and remove the chunkier stems. Spread loosely on a sheet of baking paper and dry in the oven at 80°C. Grind with salt using a mortar and pestle. Use immediately or store in a jar.


Esther – Leaf to Root
Esther – Leaf to Root
The food journalist loves to experiment with all parts of the vegetable.

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