Fennel has a distinctive, licorice-like taste. It’s frequently used in Italian recipes, as well as recipes that incorporate tomato and fish. The entire fennel plant – bulb, stalks and leaves – is edible and packed with vitamins A and C as well as fiber. The bulb is the part of the plant most often called for in recipes, which means sometimes the stalks and leafy fronds are unnecessarily cast aside.
The anise-like flavors of fennel blend well with fish recipes. Martha Stewart recommends using fennel stalks to stuff into the cavities of whole fish to impart fennel flavor while cooking. A classic French recipe calls for fish to be roasted over a bed of chopped up fennel stalks. There are more elaborate recipes that use fennel stalks with fish, particularly recipes of Italian or French origin.
Similar to Celery
Since the fennel stalk is shaped like a celery stalk, like celery it can be used as a “boat” – a vessel for cream cheese or other types of fillings. Fennel can also be chopped up in any recipe that calls for celery. In stir fries, soups, or any food that calls for a sturdy, nutrient-packed vegetable, fennel stalks are a suitable substitute for celery. Like celery, fennel can be used on a crudités platter, or chopped up for extra crunch in tuna salad.
To make your own vegetable stock, boil equal parts vegetables or vegetable “discards” and water. Materials that can be used to make vegetable stock include onion skins, apples and potatoes. Fennel stalks are also appropriate for making stock – particularly if the stock will be used for a soup made of flavors that are complemented by the fennel taste. Soups with potato or tomato flavors or bouillabaisse go well with the fennel flavoring.
Chopped fennel stalks can be sautéed along with onion and garlic when preparing a homemade red pasta sauce. If all else fails, like other vegetable discards, fennel stalks will make a nutritious addition to your garden’s compost pile.