Fennel is a flowering plant, a member of the carrot family that grows best in warm sunny locations and is found naturally around the Mediterranean but is now grown around the world. The ancient Greek name for fennel was marathon and the site of the famous historical battle of the same name was literally ‘the field of fennel’. The Greeks believed eating fennel gave you both energy, courage, and endurance and it was eaten by athletes competing at the early Olympics.
Fennel has an anise-liquorice like aroma and flavour. You can eat the leaves which are very similar to Dill, as garnishes and to add flavour to soups, salads and sauces. The greyish seeds are used in baking, breads and as a spice particularly in Chinese Five Spice and ‘Italian’ sausages found across North America. The large bulb of the fennel plant can be roasted, grilled, cooked in stews and is delicious sliced really thinly and eaten raw. Sugar coated fennel seeds are served in Indian restaurants as breath fresheners and fennel is used as a flavouring in natural toothpaste. The flavour of fennel matches well with fish, beans, beetroot, cucumber, duck, pork and rice.