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Most fennel I use is Florence fennel. The bulbous base grows into stalks that are topped by feathery leaves resembling dill. The Italians know fennel as finocchio. The stems and base have a delicate, aromatic, anise flavor while the texture is similar to thick cabbage.
The bulbs and stems of raw Florence fennel should be sliced as thin as possibly preferably using a mandoline. The slices can then be used in salads or sautéed. While some may not like the licorice flavor, roasting fennel brings out the sweetness of the anise.
The tops are not to be ignored. The bright green leaves can be used almost anywhere that you might use fresh dill - snip them directly over salads, bake in bread, combine with dressings.
The fennel that produces fennel seeds is related but not widely available. This is known as common fennel and is mostly stalk with similar fine pungent leaves.
4 ounces fennel = 35 calories, <1g fat, <1g sat fat, <1g mono fat, 1g protein, 8g carbohydrates, 59mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol