Kathleen Purvis Q&A

Fennel and anise taste similar but aren’t the same

February 11, 2014 

FOOD TECHNIQUES MI

The bulbous root of Florence fennel can be sliced and cooked like a vegetable, while the frond can be minced and used the way you'd use a fresh herb.

PATRICK FARRELL — Patrick Farrell/MCT

Q: Is there a difference between anise and fennel? I use fennel because I can’t find anise in local stores.

A. Fennel and anise have similar, licorice-like flavors. But the form is different.

Florence fennel, the type you usually see in markets, is a root vegetable with a feathery frond. The bulbous root can be sliced and cooked like a vegetable, while the frond can be minced and used the way you’d use a fresh herb. The flavor is similar to anise, but much milder, sweeter and more delicate. Fennel seed, usually dried and used to flavor sausage, comes from a related plant called common fennel.

Anise is classified as a spice. You rarely encounter the plant, just the seed, sometimes called aniseed. It’s used to flavor a lot of things, such as sweets, and particularly beverages common in Mediterranean countries, like pastis (France), anisette (Italy) and ouzo (Greece).

You’re most likely to find dried anise in the spice section of a well-stocked supermarket, particularly in areas of the country where there are large populations of people of Italian descent. Dried fennel seed should be easy to find in supermarket spice sections.

Email questions about cooking and food to Kathleen Purvis at mailto:kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service