Wild Fennell (Foeniculum Vulgare)
Is going nuts everywhere you look right now, just jump onto your local highway to see kilometres of yellow, as far as the eye can see, from the flowering Fennell. I can’t leave my house without seeing it right now.
Fennell is an incredibly aromatic and flavorsome herb and if you’re into foraging you should learn to ID this one, as it’s abundant in Summer.
Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) is native to the Mediterranean & was very popular with the Anglo Saxons & Romans. It now grows worldwide, especially in coastal regions. This perrennial can grow from 1.5-3m tall, making it hard to miss, and has distinctive, lacy leaves, with bright yellow umbrella like flowers which once mature boast bountiful brown seeds. The biggest clue to knowing your fennell is the smell, it has a very strong aniseed smell and taste when rubbed.
Wild Fennell is really just a naughty escapee from the kitchen garden, so you can use it just like cultivated fennell although I find given it’s tendency to bolt it has a much stronger flavor. While you can harvest & eat the entire plant, I prefer the very young bulbs sliced into salads (recipe below), or otherwise stick to the fronds, flowers & seeds.
The fronds can be added to a flavorsome pesto, go good with fish dishes, and make a lovely addition to salads.
The flowers can also be added to salads or if you have lots of time on your hands you can collect the pollen and sprinkle this onto your dish or baking. Once the seedheads have completely dried out and turned brown you can collect the seeds and store for later use. Sprinkle these onto dishes for aniseed flavoring.
Fennell is really good for digestive problems, including colic, indigestion and flatulence. It’s a classic ingredient in many aperitifs & digestive liquors, given it’s digestive properties. It also helps promote breastmilk production, just add the seeds into a herbal tea and drink daily. Apparently Fennell increases the milk production of Cattle & Goats, but it taints the milk...
This is such an abundant wild weed in New Zealand, so if you enjoy the taste it’s worth trying out various recipes to use this sustainable resource!
Fennell Salad Recipe
In Italy we would regularly make a Fennell salad by finely slicing the Fennell bulb. Then dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Add herbs like parsley or mint. It’s delicious just like this or you can add black olives and or sliced oranges to jazz it up and give some color.