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Scientific classification
Binomial name
Foeniculum vulgare P. Mill.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant of the Apiaceae or parsley family, which produces edible seeds and leaves. The cultivar Florence fennel has inflated leaf bases which form a sort of bulb. It comes mainly from India and Egypt and it has an anise-like flavor, but is more aromatic and sweeter. Its flavor comes from anethole, an aromatic compound that also flavors anise and star anise.


It is a perennial herb, erect, glaucous, and grows to 2 m tall. It is highly aromatic. The leaves grow up to 40 cm long; they are finely dissected, with the ultimate segments filiform; umbels are terminal, 5-15 cm wide; umbellets with 20-50 tiny flowers, these are on filiform pedicels. The fruit is from 4-9 mm long, half as wide or less, and grooved.

The cultivar Florence fennel is much smaller than the wild type and has inflated leaf bases which are eaten as a vegetable.


Fennel is native to southern Europe (especially by the Mediterranean) and southwestern Asia. In Hawaii, it is cultivated and naturalized along roadsides, in pastures, and other open sites. It has been similarly widely introduced to the US and southern Canada. In Fiji, it is occasionally cultivated near sea level, and sparingly naturalized in shady waste places. It is propagated by seed.


It is used traditionally as a leaf vegetable or herb in cooking, particularly with eggs and fish. It is also used as a diuretic and to improve milk supply of breastfeeding mothers. Florence fennel, popular in Italy and Germany, among other countries, may be eaten as a salad (e.g. with chicory and avocado), blanched and marinated, or cooked (e.g. as risotto).

Many Indian restaurants will have a dish of fennel seed with small candies mixed therein near the entrance. Some patrons of these establishments will eat a spoonful on their way out as a digestive and to cleanse the palate.

Fennel is also used in some natural toothpastes.


  • Fennel risotto (


In Ancient Greek fennel was called marathron. This is the origin of the placename Marathon (meaning place of fennel), site of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.


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