If you are eating seasonally, you are in luck because there are many foods grown in Wisconsin that are in season this time of year. One of my favorites is fennel.
Fun fact: fennel is a flowering plant that belongs to the same plant family as carrots. Fennel is a hardy perennial plant, considered both an herb and a vegetable. It has yellow flowers and beautiful, soft, feathery leaves similar to dill. It typically grows in the Mediterranean, but it is also grown in Wisconsin.
Smelling fennel is an experience in and of itself! It is very aromatic with a deep pungent aroma that resembles anise, similar but much richer smelling than licorice.
Fennel is also a very flavorful herb. Almost every part of the plant can be used in cooking. The dried fennel seeds are aromatic and taste like anise. Green seeds are best for cooking, having the most flavor. The leaves can be used to finish off a dish to produce a delicate flavor, and the bulb can be used as a vegetable by putting it in salads and soups. It is crisp and can be sautéed, baked, grilled or eaten raw.
Many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes call for fennel in their recipes. It is also found in some Chinese spice powders. Fennel is often used to make Italian sausage, and it is also found in breath fresheners. It can be used to make tea, which tastes much like licorice or anise tea.
All in all fennel is a wonderful food that can be used in many ways. Look for it in the grocery stores or at your local farmer’s market.