Fennel seeds are one of the world’s most popular and used spices, trailing only behind clove and black pepper. This soft, slender perennial plant has many culinary uses. The roots are commonly used as medicine. The bulb is shaved into salads, pickled, or roasted until achingly sweet and tender. The flowers are used as a finishing herb and flavoring for delicate spirits. The seeds are added to all sorts of foods, and medicinally they act as both a digestive and a breath freshener.
The flavor of fennel seed certainly falls into the anise-licorice family of herbs. Yet, fennel also boasts hints of parsley and celery – the vegetal flavor offsets all the licorice sweetness and makes it one of the most preferred spices in the world.
Ground fennel has numerous uses, from soups and chowders, to braises and breads. However, a favorite application is to combine it with salt and pungent spices like cardamom or black pepper and create a rub for root vegetables.