Whether you call it fennel, finocchio or by its Latin genus name of foeniculum, it’s still a fragrant, edible bulb with the sweet flavor of anise.
Growing up, we always called it finocchio in my house. My parents probably picked up the word during a stay in Italy, and I think it stuck because it’s such a fun word to say. Fin-oh-kee-oh! Rhymes with Pinocchio. It’s kind of a circus of sounds, like a tiny acrobat doing flips inside your mouth.
Several weeks ago at least, maybe longer, there was some finocchio in my CSA box. I wanted to write about it at the time, but I was stuck in a certain kind of limbo: a blog without a name. I spent several weeks either with my nose in a thesaurus or huddled over a search engine agonizing over a name. I had lots of ideas offered up by friends and family (thanks!), some great and some silly, but none felt quite right. Until, finally, a voice of reason suggested a concept that both felt right and that I liked. So here I am in the heavy heat of July thinking about the fennel of June.
Since they were so young and tender – the very picture of early Summer with their pale jade-green colour and feathery tops – I decided not to cook them but instead to make a salad. I thinly sliced the bulbs and dressed them with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, white pepper and snippets of the fresh dill that was also in the box that week. It was crunchy, aromatic, sweet and tart and it tasted of the promise of a new growing season.