Organic Cracked Fennel
Fennel Seeds, Foeniculum vulgare, are a member of the parsley family (Apiaceae family) and are closely related to anise, asafoetida, caraway, chervil, coriander, culantro, dill, lovage and parsley. Fennel's seeds are considered a spice, while the edible roots, stalks and leaves of the plant are considered an herb.
Fennel is native to the Mediterranean and there are many varieties of fennel, but the two primary types are sweet fennel, Foeniculum vulgare variety dulce, and bitter fennel, Foeniculum vulgare variety Mill. In the US, bitter fennel is more common. Another slightly less popular sweet fennel is the Italian type, Finocchio or Florence fennel, which is grown for its bulbous stalk and is eaten as a vegetable.
The shape of Fennel Seeds is oval and ridged, while color varies from pale or bright green to brownish yellow. Fennel Seeds resemble their close family member caraway seed (although a bit less curved than caraway).
Fennel Seed has a volatile oil content of 1% to 6% and bitter fennel contains 50% trans-anethole and 10-20% fenchone (which is responsible for the seeds bitter, camphorous and pungent flavor). Because of their high volatile oil content, once ground, fennel's flavor quickly dissipates. Because of this, we grind our cracked fennel in small batches once every week or so in our facility.
Fennel Seeds are called shamar (Arabic), hui-hsiang (Mandarin), fenouil (French), fenchel (German), moti saunf (Hindi), uikyo (Japanese), fun-cho (Portuguese), fenkhel (Russian) and hinojo (Spanish).
The genus name Foeniculum is Latin for "little hay" and is thought to refer to the aroma of fennel. The genus name is also the source of the name of fennel in many European languages (including German "Fenchel", Italian "finocchio" and Portuguese "funcho").
In Greek mythology, Prometheus, who brought fire to mankind, concealed it in a stalk of fennel.
The ancient Greeks knew fennel by the name "marathon". Fennel grew wild in the field in which one of the great ancient battles was fought between the Greeks and the Persians in 490 BC. With the Persian's superior army closing in on the Greek capitol, the Athenian general Miltiades devised a successful strategy in which he weakened the center of his undermanned force in order to strengthen its wings, which confounded the Persians. The victory of "the Marathon men" greatly strengthened the resolve of the Greeks, with the tale of the messenger running 25 miles to Athens to deliver the news, fueling the creation of the modern marathon. This field was subsequently referred to as the Battle of Marathon, after this revered plant.
Fennel shoots, fennel water and fennel seed are all mentioned in an ancient record of Spanish agriculture dating back to 961 AD. In England in the 1200s, fennel seed was commonly used as an appetite suppressant to help people get through fasting days.
The Puritans are credited with introducing fennel to the US, and they called fennel seeds "meeting seeds", in reference to their use during long church sermons or Puritan meetings where they chewed on the seeds to fend off hunger and drowsiness.
Fennel grows best in a cool and dry climate, and it's often cultivated as an annual, reaching heights of 5' to 8'. It resembles dill, which it can easily cross-pollinate with. Because of this, they should not be grown in close proximity, as the resulting seed has a dulled flavor.
Soon after the seeds are planted, the first irrigation is done with another one or two light irrigations needed until seed germination. Once the plants begin growing, irrigation should occur at 15-25 day intervals. Water stress during the flowering and seed formation should be avoided, as it will adversely affect the seed formation and yield.
Fennel matures in 170 - 180 days. Harvesting is done by plucking the umbels (flower clusters) when seeds are fully developed and green in color. They're then dried and threshed (removing the seeds from the stalks and husks by beating the plant so that the seeds fall out). The Harvesting period lasts about a month, with plucking being done two or three times at 10 days intervals.
Bitter fennel is commercially grown in Argentina, central Europe, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, India and Russia.
Our Organic Bitter Fennel Seeds are grown in Egypt.
Fennel is a common spice in the Mediterranean and European regions, with French and Italian cooks often calling fennel "the fish herb". The French use cracked fennel in fish soups, in some versions of their popular herb blend Herbs de Provence and in vinaigrettes. Italians add them to meatballs, pasta sauces, pepperoni, pizza, salami, Sambuca (a colorless liqueur) and sausages. Arabs add them in breads and salads while the Spanish use fennel seeds to flavor various baked goods.
Throughout Asia, fennel seeds are used to season cabbages, fish sauces, roasted lamb, mutton and pork curries, sweet and sour dishes. In India they're toasted in oil to release their flavor where they're then used ground or used whole in breads, curries, lentils, spice blends, soups and vegetables. In Kashmir, ground fennel is a key ingredient in egg and fish egg curries and in Sri Lanka ground fennel is added to hot curries and stews.
Fennel goes great with beets, lentils, potatoes, in sauerkraut, stews, meat and chicken dishes, sauces, herb butters, dips and dressings, salads, omelets, apple pie, cakes, pastries, puddings, and spiced fruit.
Fennel works well in combination with cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek and Sichuan peppercorns.
Add fennel at the end of the cooking process for the best flavor.
Fennel has a warm, anise-licorice aroma and the flavor is slightly sweet with a camphorous undertone. Fennel is a bit more astringent than anise and less pungent than dill seed.
The closest substitution for fennel seeds are anise seeds, which come from a different plant but also have a licorice flavor.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*