These are the aromatic seeds of sweet or bitter fennel that are used as a spice. They range from pale yellow-brown to green in colour, and are small, oblong and ridged. The seeds of wild bitter fennel, used in Central and Eastern European cuisines, taste slightly bitter and similar to celery seeds. Sweet fennel produces the more commonly available variety of fennel seed, which has a mild anise flavour. The two types of seed are not interchangeable.
Look for bright yellow-green seeds; dull brown-grey ones will be old.
Store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight to prevent discolouring.
Fennel seeds are used in European, Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese cuisines. They are ground into spice mixtures and added to soups, sauces, fish dishes, lamb- or potato-based curries, pickles, condiments, breads, cakes, pancakes, desserts, confectionery and drinks. In India, they are chewed as a breath freshener and digestive aid.
Article by Sejal Sukhadwala