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Sweet Fennel

( Originally Published 1933 )


Umbelliferae Annual

Foeniculum officinalis comes from South Europe. The whole plant is stiffer and does not wilt as quickly when picked, nor is it as tall as F. vulgare.

Root. The roots are strong and thick.

Stem. The stems are blue-green, hollow, stiff and much branched, and grow to three feet high.

Leaf. The leaf bases are thickened and slightly surround the stem, but not nearly as much as in the other varieties. The leaves are divided into thin thread-like segments, are sparse at the tip and full at the base, and taste like anise.

Flower. The yellowish-green flowers are borne in broad terminal clusters and blossom all summer. The pedicels are sturdier than in the other fennels.

Seed. The seeds are almost one-half an inch long, ridged, grooved, the tip is divided into two, and the end often has the stem adhering to it. When crushed, they smell of anise and taste very sweet and like liquorice.

Use. When the plant is running to bloom the fresh, tender stems, still enclosed in their expanded leafstalks, are cut off and stood in water until it is time to serve them raw, as an hors d'oeuvres. The seeds are used as a condiment. The leaves flavor sauces.

The var. piperitum, DC. called Carosella is beloved by Neapolitans, who eat the stems raw as one does young onions or celery. It is on every table from Naples to Rome from January to June, says one traveler.

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