Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wild Edibles; Fennel

One of the more well known Bay Area foraging favorites, fennel was reportedly first brought to the area by Franciscan friars who grew it in their gardens. Widely used in European cooking, but far less so here. All parts of the plant are edible with the seeds, stalks and bulbs being the most useful parts. Though even the feathery fronds make a lovely and aromatic garnish for salads.

Best in spring, fennel is everywhere from parks to roadsides and flower gardens. Recipes abound in books and across the web so it's very easy to find ways to prepare this plant. In Italy the bulbs are often brushed with olive oil and roasted or grilled and the stalks are cut and pealed like celery for dipping in spicy olive oil.

Easy to spot and unmistakable from other plants after you've seen it, know it by it's feathery, almost fluffy appearance and licorice smell. Depending on how you intend to use it, fennel can be gathered year round in the Bay Area.  Once you start adding it to breads, sauces and meat dishes you'll soon find it sneaking onto your table as a dish unto itself. 

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