I must have inherited my love of licorice from my father. Throughout my childhood, I could always find a package of his beloved Licorice Allsorts tucked away in a kitchen cupboard or perhaps stashed in my dresser drawer. While I loved the licorice, the “allsorts” part didn’t much appeal to me, so I spent a considerable amount of time picking away the neon-coloured candy coatings to get to the delicious licorice embedded inside. Whether it was black Nibs, Whips, Sen-Sen breath mints or ice cream, the flavour of licorice always added a kick to sugar treats that I couldn’t resist. Eventually my insatiable candy cravings were curbed by too many encounters with the dentist’s drill, yet I still enjoy the occasional binge on the black stuff. But there is another way to fill your face with the sweet taste of licorice without the dentist filling your teeth with composite. It’s called Fennel. Fennel has three distinctive parts, giving it quite a unique appearance. It looks like conjoined onion bulbs sprouting white celery stalks, topped with bright green fronds resembling dill. Now before you go rushing out to find some Fennel, here’s a heads-up. You may discover Fennel seems impossible to find. That’s because quite a number of grocers mislabel the bulb as ‘Anise.’ When choosing Fennel, ensure the bulb and stalks are firm, white and free from cracks and blemishes, and that the green fronds are not dried or wilted. To prepare, remove the stalks at the base of the bulb and use them as you would celery. The fronds can be chopped and used as a garnish or herb. Last and best, is the flavourful, aromatic bulb. It’s juicy and refreshing, boasting that sweet, tangy taste of licorice. Fennel mixes equally well with meats, chicken and a variety of vegetables. Slice or grate and add to salads and coleslaw. Cut in quarters and grill. Chop and sauté with onions and carrots. I like it best raw, as cooked Fennel tends to lose some of its licorice flavour. Unlike a bag of Licorice Allsorts, a Fennel bulb has just 35 calories, contains potassium and calcium, and also provides 15% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C. Delicious and healthy… Now that’s a real treat!
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