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You can grind seeds from the fennel in your garden to make ground fennel powder and you can dry your own fennel too for fennel spice. And you can grow other spices at home too!
What does fennel taste like?
Fennel has a little bit of licorice taste. It’s a little bit sweet. The bulbs of fennel are crunchy like celery and you can use them cooked or raw. They taste amazing in a salad. Just peel the outer layer off, cut off the tops and wash it. Then slice it thinly and put in stir fry or a crunchy salad.
The tops or frawns can be cut finely and used to season dishes. They taste great in soup, stir fry, just about anything. It can even be used in dessert.
Fennel spice, dried fennel
If you dry the finely cut fronds in a dehydrator, you have fennel spice. You can use it just like the fennel spice you can buy at the store, but it tastes brighter and more flavorful.
Growing fennel to make ground fennel powder is super simple. You can buy starts or plant seeds. There are several fennel varieties. There are varieties that bulb and varieties that don’t. The varieties that don’t come in green and a bronze color. Bulb fennel is green.
Plant seeds or plants after danger of frost has passed. Plant 6-8 inches apart. We love to plant fennel for our butterfly garden. It attracts tons of black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. We bring a few inside to observe and then release them after we watch them metamorphosis. It’s pretty amazing.
Fennel will grow all season, but if you want to eat the bulbs, pull them before they get too big and tough to eat. When they look like a flat ball about the size of a baseball that’s smashed, you can pull them and enjoy them.
If you let the fennel keep growing, it will form seed heads. Wait until the heads get dry and start to break open. Once this happens, you can either cut the head off and dry it on a dinner plate or tie a paper bag over the head and let the seeds fall in the bag.
Once your seeds are all collected, you can grind them up in a blender or spice grinder. They are already dry.
Fennel seed vs anise seed
Fennel and anise are similar in flavor and are used in a lot of Italian and Indian cooking. They both taste licoricey but they grow differently. Anise seed is different than star anise which is spicy and warm tasting. Anise has a more pungent flavor. They can be used interchangeably.
Check out these amazing fennel recipes from Martha Stewart. Martha knows what’s up!