Bulb fennel is native to the Mediterranean region, and is known to grow wild along roadsides there. Resembling a pale, stout version of celery, bulb fennel is grown mainly for its broad, bulbous leaf base, which is eaten as a vegetable. It can be served raw in salads or crudités, cooked in hearty winter stews, added to pasta dishes or baked and served with grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
Also called finocchio, bulb fennel tastes and smells like anise or black licorice. Bulb fennel is considered to be a cool-season annual, so the best growing season in the Midwest is either early summer or fall.
Plant in a sunny location with well-drained soil, and water during extended dry spells. Transplants will reach maturity in about 80 days, when the entire plant can be harvested.
Fennel and Potato Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups coarsely chopped fresh fennel
2 medium onions chopped
8 ounces peeled white potatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Heat oil in large pot. Add fennel, onions and potatoes. Sauté until slightly soft.
Purée and return to pot. Stir in cream and add remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer.
Season with salt and pepper.