What To Do With Leftover Fennel Stalks

When you buy fennel from the grocery store or even from the farmers' market, you'll also take home the fronds and the stalks. According to the University of Illinois Extension, there are two different kinds of fennel. One has a bulbous base that's often used as a vegetable and the other is a perennial herb that is a member of the carrot family. Above the bulb are the stalks, and fronds are the frilly, thin-like leaves that protrude from the stalks and look very similar to the dill weed herb. Both forms have a licorice-like or anise flavor, whether used as a vegetable, herb, or its seeds dried for a spice. Herb fennel is great for seafood dishes or stews, while fennel bulbs can be roasted or sliced raw to add to salad greens, and seeds can be used in sausage.

In other words, every part of the fennel plant is edible and has a distinct purpose and taste. Even if a recipe only requires the bulb in its list of ingredients, think before you slice off the leftover stalks and fronds and let them go to waste. After all, wispy fronds could be the perfect garnish or finishing touch your dish needs. And those crisp, fibrous stalks just might come in handy as a celery substitute or when your food could use a subtly sweet, anise flavor. 

How to use fennel stalks and fronds

If you're wondering what other ways to incorporate stalks and fronds in various dishes, we've got the answer. To add depth and boost flavor, consider chopping or thinly slicing the stalks to make vegetable stock or, as suggested by the University of Illinois Extension, cook in hearty soups, too.

Fennel fronds, on the other hand, can be used in a similar fashion to fresh herbs. Sprinkle fresh fronds on salads or roasted vegetables to give a touch of anise to the dish. But these green feathery leaves aren't just limited to raw or cooked vegetables. No, there are myriad ways they can be used as an ingredient. According to Bon Appétit, fronds can be blended into a pesto, salad dressings, fresh salsas, or cooked sauces. Additionally, you can use them as a garnish for dips, stir-fry, and even pot roasts. For a new twist on potato salad, slice up fennel fronds and mix them into the summer picnic favorite. Next time you're shopping for fennel, remember the endless cooking possibilities you have with this versatile bulb.