Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is our latest maturing herb ready for harvest in Penelope’s Garden.
The glowing yellow flowers of bronze fennel are a generous source for pollinators. It is a host plant for the Eastern Black Swallowtail. Bees, wasps and flies are also enjoying these blooms throughout the season.
Cooking with Bronze Fennel:
The feathery leaves can be trimmed and used any time for salads, garnish, and potato salad. It can be
used in desserts and drinks, anytime you want to add a sweet bite of anise. The dried seeds are a familiar
little dish presented after Indian fare to munch as an aid for digestion and freshening the breath. They are a traditional ingredient in Italian-style sausage, and pair well with other vegetables like carrots, beets and jicama.
Bronze fennel seeds may also be used in baked goods like breads and biscuits. In addition, they can be used to make fennel tea. Fennel stems may be steamed or grilled, and pair well with fish, pork and poultry dishes; the stalks can be added to soups. Bronze fennel leaves make an attractive garnish for salad, pasta and rice dishes. Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator, where it will last for up to 5 days.
Health Benefits of Fennel:
Much of the research that has validated fennel’s health benefits has been done with fennel seeds, which are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects. Fennel seeds have long been used to reduce intestinal gas, which is why many cooks add a few fennel seeds to the cooking water when cooking asparagus, cabbage, beans, and other gas-producing foods.
How to Harvest Fennel Pollen:
The pollen is a sweet version of the fennel seed with a more complex flavor and less distinct anise flavor.
It has a complex citrusy-licorice flavor of fennel in concentrated form. Fennel pollen includes the pollen and dried petals that fall from fennel blossoms as they dry. It can be used fresh or dried.
To harvest for fresh use: Gently shake the seed head over a piece of paper to collect. You can brush two flowers against each other to collect more pollen A little goes a long way. Store the fresh pollen in a jar in the fridge to use (soon). Dried pollen has a much milder taste. To harvest fennel pollen to dry, snip several heads of blooming fennel into a clean paper bag, and place in a warm, dry place for at least a week. Give the bag a good shake, and gather the pollen and petals that accumulate in the bottom of the bag. You may need to rub the heads together to loosen the pollen. When stored in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place, fennel pollen will store for several months.
How to Harvest Fennel Seeds:
Fresh, green seeds are juicy and taste like anise candy. They are a powerful highlight in any dish.
Harvest ripe and dry fennel seeds when the flower heads turn brown and no later, or the seeds may fall. Snip the stems below the dry flowers, and place the flowers on a tray in a warm, dry place to finish drying out before storing them in an airtight container. Store the seeds in an airtight jar in cool conditions, where they will last for several months.