Seasonal shoutout Fennel

We’re copying Jamie Oliver (obsessed much?) with his love of aromatic herbs and falling for fennel…

The Bulb

Rapid reportThis swollen stem is treated largely as a vegetable. It has a distinctive liquorice flavour but a sweet aroma.

Quick tipWhen buying fennel bulbs, ensure they're plump and firm without splits or discolouration. Remove the tough outer layers and the stalks, slice off 1cm from the base, halve the bulbs and rinse to remove any trapped dirt.

Fast factFennel stems are a great source of fibre, vitamin C, folate, manganese, beta-carotene and potassium.

Cooking cueAlthough fennel can be eaten raw, most people like to bake or braise it. Why not caramelise it in a pan or throw it into a homemade soup with some fresh chunks of apple?

The Fronds

Rapid reportThe feathery leaves from fennel can grow up to 40cm long. Although they resemble dill, they’re actually a member of the parsley family. Fennel foliage has a much stronger flavour than the bulbs.

Quick tipWhen buying fennel leaves, look for fresh, healthy-looking fronds. Keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to three days.

Fast fact12th century herbal writer Hildegard of Bingen claimed fennel was good for strengthening the eyes. It's also said to be good for your intestine, can aid hypertension, improve your supply of breast milk and treat colic in infants.

Cooking cueFinely chop the fronds and stir through yogurt to make a dip or sprinkle over a fish broth.

The Seeds

Rapid reportThe dried fruits of the fennel plant have a warm flavour that intensifies with cooking. They are used in Mediterranean risottos, pastas, sausages and salads and are often thrown into Kashmiri and Gujarat dishes.

Quick tipKeep in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Fast factRoasted fennel seeds are often eaten as a digestive and a breath freshener after meals in India and Pakistan.

Cooking cueRub into lamb or pork before roasting or toast in a dry frying pan and grind to add to any curry.