Fennel is often confused with the herb anise because both plants have a flavor similar to black licorice. Fennel has a rounded white bulb, short green stalks, and feathery green leaves. Its appearance resembles an extra plump bunch of celery. Its unique taste becomes more mild when cooked.
In the United States, fennel is grown almost exclusively in California. The freshest fennel can be found at your farmers' markets where you get just-picked fennel full of flavor and nutrition. So if you like the mild flavor of licorice, this is perfect to add to your recipes.
Fennel is a good source of niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and manganese.
Pale to medium green
Smaller fennel bulbs are more tender and less fibrous than larger bulbs. The bulb has virtually all of the usable meat, and should be a firm, clean creamy white that does not show any sign of brown spots, yellowing, splitting, or withering. Fennel stalks should be straight and the leaves a feathery bright green. Avoid fennel with flowers on the stalks because this is a sign that the fennel is overly mature.
Store fennel in a plastic bag, in the high-humidity crisper section of the refrigerator for no more than three to four days. Fennel loses its flavor quickly so it's best to use it as soon as possible.