Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum (treated as the sole species in the genus by most botanists). It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves, grows wild in most parts of temperate Europe, but is generally considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, whence it spreads eastwards to India. It has followed civilization, especially where Romans have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world upon dry soils near the sea-coast and upon river-banks. It is a member of the family Apiaceae. It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses, and is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Fennel is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the Mouse Moth and the Anise Swallowtail.
Fennel is a perennial herb, meaning that it grows year-round. It is erect, glaucous green, and grows to heights of up to 2.5 m, with hollow stems. The leaves grow up to 40 cm long; they are finely dissected, with the ultimate segments filiform, about 0.5 mm wide. Its leaves are similar to those of dill, but thinner. The flowers are produced in terminal compound umbels 5–15 cm wide, each umbel section having 20–50 tiny yellow flowers on short pedicels. The fruit is a dry seed from 4–10 mm long, half as wide or less, and grooved.
The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are widely used in many of the culinary traditions of the world. Fennel pollen is the most potent form of fennel, but also the most expensive. Dried fennel seed is an aromatic, anise-flavoured spice, brown or green in colour when fresh, slowly turning a dull grey as the seed ages. For cooking, green seeds are optimal. The leaves are delicately flavored and similar in shape to those of dill. The bulb is a crisp, hardy root vegetable and may be sauteed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw.
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