Fennels

(“Finocchi”)

 

The finocchio, fennel, a perennial plant originally grown in the Mediterranean region it spreads and is now cultivated in Asia and in the Americas.
There are two types of fennels: the sweet fennel and the common fennel.
The sweet fennel has an edible white base and is widely cultivated for its inflated leaf bases that can be eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. Also it produces seeds used as spices in food or to make herbal tea.
In Italy there are many variety of this vegetable that grows from June to

December, in North America the finocchio bianco, called the Florence  fennel, is grown in large quantities.
The common fennel is a plant that grows wild all over Italy and in particular in Sicily.


 

Fennel Sfincione

Braised Fennel with Red Onions

Fennel with Tomato Sauce

 

It can be found along the roads in the country side and especially near wetland, torrents or waterways. The fronds of this plant are used to make the famous Pasta   con   Sarde,   to wrap around when barbequing fish like  spigola, the stripe bass, to add to a fish soup and to flavor with the gentle licorice taste, meat dishes or the Sicilian Maccu,  the thick purée of legumes. The seeds are used to aromatize sausages, cheeses, in baking, in making aperitif and digestive liquors, as a tea it is used as a natural remedy for constipation and flatulence. 

 

finocchio

 


There is a similar plant called anice, anis, it was cultivated before the Mycenaean civilization in Greece and before the beginning of the Shang Dynasty in Ancient China, around the 1500 B.C.; the leaves and seeds have a pleasant licorice flavor used extensively in the Asian cuisine, in the preparation of liquors, like anisette, arack, ouzo, pastis, in particular in making the biscotti all’anice, the anise biscuits consumed for breakfast and for other baking specialties. Like the fennels, anis has been used for century as a natural remedy for gastro-intestinal problems to help reduce spasms, colic especially in children and to stimulate the secretion of milk to breast feeding mothers. 
The Florence fennels or finocchi Italiani, are delicious raw in salads or eaten after a meal to conclude and helps to digest a big meal, battered in eggs and fried are stimulating appetizer, sautéed with onion they make an excellent side dish. In California they grow fennels all year and are available in markets all the time. Fennels are low in calories, they contain potassium, calcium and phosphorus and vitamins of the group A, B and C.
Buying fennels prefer the round bulbs which leaves usually are tender, contrary to the oblongs which are tough and rubbery.
In Italy, without any scientific verification, we call the round male fennel and the oblong shaped female.