Food Information


Anise, which is also marketed as sweet fennel, is related to celery. It originated in southern Europe and is highly prized in Italy and France as well as in India and China, but it is only now gaining popularity in the United States. Once found only in Italian neighborhoods, it is now often available in supermarket chains that have upgraded their produce departments.

Fennel is in season from early fall to early spring. It doesn't do well in hot weather and is usually out of season in the warmer months. California is the major producer, but a fair amount is grown in New Jersey.

Anise is a most unusual-looking plant. The very attractive, delicate, fern-like green foliage resembles and is often mistaken for fresh dill weed. These greens are usually discarded but may be chopped up and used sparingly as a seasoning. The white stalks of the plant aren't often used because they tend to be hollow and pithy. The choice parts of the plant are the large white bulbs that grow above ground. They have a texture similar to celery, but are not quite as stringy and have an unusual, pleasantly sweet, licorice like flavor. Serve anise as you would celery hearts, along with olives. They make an interesting and unusual cooked vegetable. When selecting fennel, look for fresh green foliage and crisp, firm white bulbs. If the foliage is yellow or limp and the bulbs look dry and are discolored, wait for better quality and buy celery instead.

Deamer 5/97