Fennel: Appearance, Selection, and Storage

Fennel, a versatile vegetable with a distinctive licorice-like flavor, has gained popularity in various cuisines. Its unique appearance, characterized by a round bulb and feathery stalks, can be intimidating to those unfamiliar with it. This comprehensive guide will delve into the physical characteristics of fennel, providing insights into its selection and proper storage techniques.

Physical Appearance

Fennel bulbs resemble miniature white onions, typically ranging in size from 2 to 4 inches in diameter. They are composed of tightly packed, fleshy layers that are crisp and slightly crunchy when raw. The bulb is topped with a crown of feathery, bright green stalks that resemble dill fronds. These stalks are tough and fibrous, making them unsuitable for consumption.


When selecting fennel bulbs, look for those that are firm and heavy for their size. Avoid bulbs with any signs of bruising, blemishes, or discoloration. The stalks should be crisp and green, indicating freshness.


Fennel bulbs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To maintain their freshness, wrap them loosely in a damp paper towel or place them in a plastic bag with a few holes for ventilation. Avoid storing fennel near strong-smelling foods, as it can absorb odors.

Additional Tips

  • Remove the stalks: Before using fennel, remove the tough stalks by cutting about 1 inch above the bulb.

  • Trim the root end: Slice off a thin layer from the root end to remove any woody or damaged portions.

  • Cut or chop: Fennel can be sliced, chopped, or wedged depending on the recipe. For finer cuts, use a sharp knife and cut against the grain.

  • Garnish: The feathery stalks can be used as a garnish to add a touch of color and flavor to dishes.

Fennel’s distinct appearance, characterized by its round bulb and feathery stalks, makes it easily recognizable. By selecting firm, blemish-free bulbs and storing them properly, you can ensure the best quality and flavor. Whether you’re slicing it for salads, chopping it for soups, or wedging it for roasting, fennel adds a unique and flavorful touch to various culinary creations.

More Handy Kitchen Skills

Acquiring new culinary techniques and ingredients doesn’t have to be difficult. You can go a long way by mastering the fundamentals, so here are some additional how-tos you might find useful.

How to Cut a Fennel Bulb, Step-by-Step

Cut off the stalks that are attached to the top of the fennel bulb using a traditional chef’s knife. Save the tender green fronds that are attached to the stalks; discard the stalks themselves. These delicate, dill-flavored wispy fronds are delicious as fresh herbs in salads, dips, and garnishes.

what does one fennel bulb look like

How to Cut a Fennel Bulb with Martha Stewart


What is considered a bulb of fennel?

Most recipes that call for fennel are referring to the bulb, the swollen bottom end of the plant. The fennel bulb is enjoyed raw, where its anise flavor is most pronounced, and cooked for a sweeter, mellower version of itself.

What does a fennel bulb look like?

Fennel is an aromatic vegetable with a rounded white bulb at the base and gently curving stalks covered with fern-like leaves.

What part of the fennel bulb can I use?

Technically speaking, all parts of the plant are edible, but most people will find the stalks too tough and fibrous to eat. The leaves can be chopped and used to flavor salads, dressings, marinades and sauces. They tend to have a slightly more citrusy flavor than the base. The base (or bulb) is delicious raw or cooked.

Do you have to peel fennel bulb?

Again, cut straight down through the root. Peel off any wilted outer layers. If the outer layers feels wilted or rubbery, peel them away and discard.

What does fennel look like?

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network. Perhaps you’ve seen fennel crop up in markets in late winter to early spring. Or maybe you’ve seen fennel seeds listed as an ingredient in Italian sausage. With its layered, bulb-like base and long fronded stalks, fennel looks intimidating and hard to cook.

What are the foods that taste like fennel seeds?

The fennel plant (Foeniculum vulgare) is often confused with fennel (Pimpinella anisum) because they have a flavor reminiscent of anise from the active ingredient anethole. In addition to it, licorice root also has a similar taste.

How do you know if a fennel bulb is fresh?

There are several tell tale signs that this fennel is beyond fresh and that is has been cut with outer layers removed. In the grocery store, produce is routinely trimmed with wilted or not fresh looking outer leaves removed. I suspect this fennel bulb has been trimmed to “look fresh”.

How do you choose a fennel bulb?

When shopping for fennel, look for a firm, blemish-free white bulb that doesn’t look dry. The stalk should be at least three inches long to prevent the bulb from drying out. The stalks should also look and feel firm and smooth with fresh-looking fronds.

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