Hi there! Bertie here! Welcome back to our herb gardening series! Today, we're focusing on bulb fennel, also known as Florence fennel or finocchio.

Fennel comes in different varieties, each with unique characteristics.

Previously, we talked about common or herb fennel, (Is Fennel a Spice? Unveiling This Versatile Herb and Its Culinary Uses) which is grown for its feathery foliage and seeds.

We invite you to check out our article on that variety of fennel if you haven't already read it.

Reviewing the Difference:

Common or Herb Fennel: Known for its delicate, fern-like leaves and aromatic seeds, this fennel (also known as bronze fennel) is typically used as an herb.

(My article linked above goes into much deeper detail including the healthful benefits of fennel which applies to both varieties.)

Its leaves and seeds add flavor to dishes, but it doesn't have the large, edible bulb that bulb fennel does. (My fennel plant is below.)

Common/herb fennel

Bulb or Florence Fennel: This variety has a fresh, aromatic anise flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked.

The bulb is the star here, offering a crisp texture and sweet taste that's perfect for various culinary uses.

It's low in calories but high in nutrients like dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.

Bulb fennel on counter with orange slices

Bulb or Florence Fennel

This fennel can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads to soups to roasted vegetables. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be cooked with or without tomato sauce.

Like the common fennel, bulb fennel pairs well with lemon, orange, and rosemary, and bulb fennel can also be used as a side dish for fish, pork, seafood, and chicken.

Raw fennel can be thinly sliced and marinated for salads as well, highlighting its versatility.

How to Cook Fennel in a Pan

Here's a great YouTube vid I found - this is one of the best as far as showing you how to cook fennel in a pan! Try it!

How to Cook Fennel in a Pan

Preparing Fennel for Cooking

When handling fennel, choose fresh bulbs with no signs of bruising or blemishes. You can store fennel in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for up to 5 days.

Clean fennel by rinsing it under cold water and patting it dry with paper towels.

To prepare fennel for pan-frying, cut out the core of the bulb for a more uniform shape. Slice fennel into thin wedges or thin slices for pan-frying.

You can also prepare fennel wedges for roasting to achieve a sweet and savory flavor.

If you want to eat it raw, use a mandoline as seen on Amazon to shave fennel into thin slices.

Cooking Fennel with Olive Oil

Olive oil adds flavor and moisture to pan-fried fennel. It’s a healthy alternative to other oils, rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats.

Bottles of olive oil with a bulb of fennel on the side

To cook fennel in a pan with olive oil, heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel slices or wedges to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pan-Frying Techniques for Perfect Fennel

Use a large cast-iron skillet or frying pan to achieve perfect caramelization. Heat the pan over medium-high heat to get a nice sear on the fennel. Cook fennel for 3-5 minutes per side, or until it reaches your desired level of tenderness.

Use a thermometer to ensure the pan reaches 350°F (175°C) for perfect caramelization.

Adding Flavor to Your Pan-Fried Fennel

Add herbs like thyme, rosemary, or parsley to the pan for added flavor. In addition, experiment with spices like black pepper, salt, or red pepper flakes to add depth.

Pair pan-fried fennel with roasted cherry tomatoes and white fish (such as cod or flounder) for a delicious combination. Add roast potatoes to the dish for a hearty side dish.

Roasted fennel can also be served as a side dish with a squeeze of lemon or added to salads and pasta dishes.

Tips for Achieving the Best Results

To prevent fennel from becoming too soft or mushy, don’t overcook it. Use a thermometer to ensure the pan reaches the correct temperature.

Don't forget to experiment with different seasonings and marinades, like marinating fennel in lemon juice, olive oil, and salt for added flavor. Try different seasonings like garlic, onion, or paprika.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid overcooking fennel, as it can become soft and mushy. Don’t undercook fennel either, as it can be tough and crunchy.

Use enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and use medium-high heat to achieve perfect caramelization.

Serving Suggestions for Pan-Fried Fennel

  • Use pan-fried fennel as a side dish for fish, pork, seafood, and chicken.
Roasted fennel slices with half boiled egg on plate
  • Add pan-fried fennel to salads for a crunchy and flavorful topping.
Thin slices of fennel on salad with radishes
  • Use pan-fried fennel as a topping for soups or stews.
Fennel in a stew
  • Garnish with finely chopped fennel fronds for added aroma and flavor.
Fennel fronds on potatoes as a garnish

Bottle of oil and fennel bulb with a sliced carrot and "Conclusion" at top

Pan-frying fennel with olive oil is a great way to bring out its natural flavors. Use the right techniques, such as heat control and pan selection, to achieve perfect caramelization.

Try new recipes and experiment with different seasonings and marinades. Don’t be afraid to try new cooking techniques, like roasting or sautéing fennel.

Here's a great recipe from The Mediterranean Dish: Roasted Fennel!

3 Fennel bulbs with FAQ's written across them

What is the best way to prepare fennel?

The best way to prepare fennel is to clean it, cut out the core, and slice it thinly for cooking or eating raw.

What part of fennel do you eat?

You can eat the bulb, stalks, and fronds of fennel, but the bulb is the most commonly used part.

How do you cook and cut fennel?

To cook fennel, slice it thinly and sauté in olive oil until tender. To cut fennel, trim the stalks, slice the bulb in half, remove the core, and then slice as needed.

Is it better to eat fennel raw or cooked?

Fennel can be enjoyed both raw and cooked, depending on your preference. Raw fennel is crisp and refreshing, while cooked fennel is tender and flavorful.

Thanks for stopping by our beehive! Have fun reading about all of our herb gardening articles on our website! Just click the little search icon and type in herbs. Browse through the drop-down box and select the herb(s) you'd like to learn more about!

We are having so much fun growing and learning about herbs! I hope you are, too! In the next article, we will catch you up on our own little herb garden. 🌿


Bio Image of Jacki

About the Author: Hi, I'm Jacki, and I write under the persona of Bertie, my beloved maternal grandmother. Bertie, born in 1891, was the wife of a farmer and an incredible gardener. Although she wasn't formally educated, her intelligence and deep understanding of gardening and farming were unmatched. She passed away in 1974, leaving me with a rich heritage of grassroots living and a wealth of practical gardening knowledge. Through her memory, I reach back into this rich history to share timeless gardening wisdom with you.

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