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Whole and ground fennel seeds originate from common fennel, Foeniculum vulgare “Purpureum.” Unlike sweet fennel, or Foeniculum vulgare “azoricum,” which is sliced for salads or baked in the oven, common fennel is bulbless 12. Sometimes called sweet cumin because its flavor is reminiscent of cumin, common fennel has seeds with a distinct licorice taste and scent. Use them with anything from soup to nuts.
Whole, Crushed and Toasted Seeds
Recipes normally called for whole or crushed fennel seeds; ground fennel is used less often. Crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle, in a coffee grinder or, with a bit more difficulty, with a rolling pin or two spoons. Be careful with the grinder, or your efforts will result in ground fennel as opposed to crushed fennel. As with other spices, toasting the seeds in a dry frying pan for a minute or two releases the seed’s fragment oils and flavors. Once you can smell the seeds, you’ll know they are finished toasting.
- Recipes normally called for whole or crushed fennel seeds; ground fennel is used less often.
- Be careful with the grinder, or your efforts will result in ground fennel as opposed to crushed fennel.
Cumin vs. Cumin Seed
Crushed, whole or ground seeds go well in spice cookies, quick breads and savory muffins or scones. Add crushed seeds to yeast breads as well, especially those with other flavorful ingredients such as walnuts or dried figs. Or sprinkle fennel seeds on top of breads or crackers before baking. A seed-topped flatbread from the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter uses a mixture of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds, but you could add fennel seeds to the mix as well. The recipe calls for a sprinkle of Parmesan over the seeds to help hold them in place.
- Crushed, whole or ground seeds go well in spice cookies, quick breads and savory muffins or scones.
- A seed-topped flatbread from the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter uses a mixture of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds, but you could add fennel seeds to the mix as well.
Meats and Fish
Fennel seeds, whole or crushed, add a signature taste to homemade sausage made from beef, chicken or tofu crumbles. Use toasted and crushed seeds in a marinade for fish, chicken, pork or lamb. Or add the seeds to a dry rub or a topping for roasted or barbecued meat and fish. Ina Garten, chef of Food Network’s "Barefoot Contessa," uses 2 tsp. of fennel seeds, 6 cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup of fresh rosemary and 2 tbsp. of lemon zest for a paste she blends in a food processor and rubs on a pork loin roast before baking 4.
- Fennel seeds, whole or crushed, add a signature taste to homemade sausage made from beef, chicken or tofu crumbles.
Salads, Sauces and Soups
Can You Eat Acorn Squash Seeds?
Dietitians at the MayoClinc.com website liven up the flavors of potato soup with 2 tsp. of toasted fennel seeds and 2 tsp. of lemon juice. Mark Bittman, author of “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” suggests fennel seeds in yogurt sauces for meats and fish and in any salad dressing 3. You’ll taste fennel seeds in many Asian dishes, particularly those from India and Sri Lanka, according to Charmaine Solomon, author of “The Complete Asian Cookbook”; in these cuisines, the seeds are toasted and used both crushed and whole.
- Dietitians at the MayoClinc.com website liven up the flavors of potato soup with 2 tsp.
- You’ll taste fennel seeds in many Asian dishes, particularly those from India and Sri Lanka, according to Charmaine Solomon, author of “The Complete Asian Cookbook”; in these cuisines, the seeds are toasted and used both crushed and whole.
Cumin vs. Cumin Seed
Can You Eat Acorn Squash Seeds?
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- Missouri Botanical Garden: Foeniculum Vulgare 'Purpureum’
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Foeniculum Vulgare var. Azoricum
- "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"; Mark Bittman; 2007
- Food Network: Loin of Pork With Fennel and Garlic
- MayoClinic.com: Recipe: Potato-Fennel Soup
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Fennel, bulb, raw. 2019.
- Badgujar SB, Patel VV, Bandivdekar AH. Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:842674. doi:10.1155/2014/842674
- Shahat AA, Ibrahim AY, Hendawy SF, et al. Chemical Composition, Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oils from Organically Cultivated Fennel Cultivars. Molecules. 2011;16(2):1366-1377. doi:10.3390/molecules16021366
- Swathi V, Rekha R, Abhishek J, Radha G, Pallavi SK, Praveen G. Effect of Chewing Fennel and Cardamom Seeds on Dental Plaque and Salivary pH – A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Pharm Sci Res. 2016;7(1):406-412. doi:10.13040/IJPSR.0975-8232.7
- National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated February 27, 2020.
- Di Ciaula A, Portincasa P, Maes N, Albert A. Efficacy of bio-optimized extracts of turmeric and essential fennel oil on the quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Ann Gastroenterol. 2018;31(6):685-691. doi:10.20524/aog.2018.0304
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Can spices cause allergic reactions? 2020.
- Allergy & ENT Specialists of Central Florida. Fennel. Updated 2015.
- Berkeley Wellness. University of California. Fennel: The Flavor of Sweet Anise. 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fruit and Vegetable Safety. Updated February 12, 2020.
- "The Complete Asian Cookbook"; Charmaine Solomon; 1992
Susan Lundman began writing about her passions of cooking, gardening, entertaining and recreation after working for a nonprofit agency, writing grants and researching child development issues. She has written professionally for six years since then. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.