Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Jessy Scarpone

What To Do With Fennel Fronds

Many people covet the rich, sweet, radish-y flavor of roasted or shaved fennel bulb, but fewer gardeners know what to do with the spriggy, dill-looking fronds that grow from the top of the plant.

This summer, I grew fennel in my garden for the first time, and I discovered that the wonderful world of fennel fronds offers endless culinary possibilities– some of them even more intriguing than the standard roasted summer fennel recipes I’d come to regard as de rigueur. Check out some of our favorite recipes for what to do with fresh fennel fronds, below.

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Make Fennel Pesto

Fennel is a tangy and somewhat bitter herb, so it pairs well with emollients like creamy Parmesan and olive oil. Use the Fennel pesto below as a topping for pasta, veggies, or roasted meat.

  • 1/2 cup chopped, roasted walnuts
  • 8 oz fennel, detached from the stalks, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt + pepper to taste

Place the nuts, fennel, Parmesan, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender and puree until uniformly smooth. For best flavor, allow to sit in the fridge for a few hours so that the flavors can meld.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Jessy Scarpone

Try Making A Fennel Smoothie

Fennel balances the sweetness of apple, carrot, and root herbs like ginger, and it also adds a lovely spice quality to creamy, avocado-based smoothies. Try this delicious recipe for a Creamy Fennel-Pineapple Smoothie:

  • 1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Pineapple
  • 1/2 Small Avocado
  • 1/2 Cup Fennel
  • 1 Lime, Peeled
  • 1 tbsp. Hemp Seeds
  • 1 – 2 Cups of Water
  • Method: Blend all the ingredients until smooth. For a frothier take, try freezing the pineapple ahead of time.

Be Adventurous With Fennel Ice Cream

  • 1 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Method:

Bring the cream and fennel seeds just to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, then cover and let steep about 30 minutes. In a separate, heavy medium saucepan bring the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, whisk together yolks and 1/4 cup sugar, and pour in the milk mixture in a slow stream. Return mixture to medium saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 175°F (do not let the mixture boil). Immediately strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl, then quick-chill by setting bowl in an ice bath and stirring occasionally until cool (about 15 minutes).

Strain fennel cream through fine-mesh sieve into custard, pressing on solids. Continue to chill in ice bath until custard is very cold, then freeze in an ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, which takes about 1 hour.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Jessy Scarpone

Use As A Digestive

It’s easy to forget that fennel fronds, simple as they are, can also be taken as a digestive. Simply nibble on a frond after a heavy meal, or steep a handful of torn fennel fronds with hot water and lemon for a post-meal digestive. (Be sure to use hot, not boiling, water.)

Spice Up Your Salads

Strip the fennel fronds from their stalks and sprinkle over a mix of greens, roasted tomatoes, and pistachios for a delicious, delightfully-herbal summer salad that pairs well with balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy your fennel the way it was meant to be enjoyed: fresh from the garden.

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