Aromatic and flavorful, if you want to bring a subtle touch of aromatic anisette, and a nutty crunch, flavorful fennel seeds add aroma and texture, and a bit of an appetite suppression.
Fennel seed is from a flowering plant species in the carrot/parsley family. Its leaves, and root bulb are also widely used in cooking all over the world. Fennel is wonderfully aromatic, and compliments a wide range of flavor profiles.
Fennel has a mildly anise-like odor that comes from anethole, an aromatic compound also found in anise and star anise. It is significantly amplified when the seeds are lightly toasted, activating the essential oils with the aromatic.
Fennel is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, but it grows wild today in many parts of the world, usually in dry soils near bodies of water, like a coastline, or a riverbank.
The first recorded history of fennel is medicinal, by the Roman writer of The Natural History, Pliny (AD 23-79), who used it to treat nearly two dozen different ailments.
In the 1300s, the spice was in common use culinarily, throughout South Asia. It found its way to Europe, both as a condiment, and an appetite suppressant. They also became a part of religious festivals, and the foods prepared for them. Baked breads, cookies, and other treats that have fennel seed often have their roots in religious culinary creations. People in Europe consumed the seeds from handkerchiefs during long religious services to stop hunger. The Puritans carried the seeds with them to the Americas. In the US, fennel seeds’ power to pause hunger for prayer gave them the nickname of ‘meetin’ seeds’.
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