Fennel is the dried, ripe fruit of the perennial Foeniculum vulgare. Tall and hardy, this plant has finely divided, feathery green foliage and golden yellow flowers. Oval seeds form in clusters after the flowers have died and are harvested when they harden.

Photo by Laurie Passini


Fennel seeds are an important ingredient in seasoning blends of the Mediterranean, Italy, China, and Scandinavia. Fennel seeds may be roasted prior to incorporation into seasoning blends to intensify their flavor. Fennel is used in curry blends, Chinese five spice, mirepoix, and herbes de Provence. Fennel is also used to flavor fish, sausages, baked goods, and liqueurs.


Fennel was once native only to the Mediterranean region, but now most fennel is grown in India, China, Egypt, and Turkey.


Ancient peoples believed fennel seed was particularly helpful in eyesight. It was also thought to increase strength. In ancient Greece, it was considered a symbol of success. In more recent history, the Puritans referred to fennel as the "meeting seed" as it was a favorite practice to chew the seeds during meetings. Today, fennel seed is widely used in India as an after-dinner breath freshener and also to help in digestion.


Yellowish to greenish brown

Flavor & Aroma

Anise-like, slight licorice flavor

Sensory Profile

Fennel is generally described as having a sweet aromatic flavor and aroma that is similar to anise (licorice-like) but less intense. It has a slight menthol undertone with musty/green flavor notes.

World's Best Lasagna
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

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