Grocery Guides

Fennel Bulb – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce



Last Updated: Feb 25, 2022

What are fennel bulbs?

Fennel bulbs are a type of root vegetable topped with feathery fronds and a bulbous bottom. The fennel family consists of 3 common varieties you’ve probably heard of: wild fennel, bronze fennel, and fennel bulb. This guide will focus on fennel bulbs and how to shop for them.

The fennel bulb is a pretty versatile veggie, in which all parts—fronds, stalks, and bulbs—are edible. Usually, fennel fronds are used in place of herb fennel to enliven dishes with their anise-like aroma. The fennel stalks do need a bit of chewing but are absolutely delicious in slow-cooked recipes. Last but not least, the white bulbs can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on the dish and your preferences.

Where did fennel bulbs originate from?

Did you know fennel bulbs are also called Florence fennel? That’s because they originate from the Mediterranean region and are especially popular in Italy. These bulbs have appeared in countless dishes, from roasted meats to pasta and more. That said, fennel bulbs have now become much-loved in other parts of the world. You can find this root vegetable just about anywhere in the U.S.

Fun fact: the close cousin of fennel bulbs, a.k.a., the bulb-less wild fennel, is often called “a roadside weed.”

What is the nutritional value of fennel bulbs?

Aside from the fennel’s bittersweet taste, they are highly nutritious, too. Not only are these root vegetables low in cholesterol, but they are also jam-packed with micronutrients such as:

  • Dietary fiber
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Manganese

The bottom line is, there’s plenty of reasons why fennel bulbs should be a staple on your grocery list. Shop fennel bulb.

How are fennel bulbs grown?

Since fennel bulbs only do well in cool weather, there’s a limited window of time in which they can be planted. Due to the fennel’s delicate bulbous structure, they are directly sown in the ground from June to July for the best chance of growing.

Fennel bulbs love moist, well-fertilized soil and full sunlight—this helps them become top-quality fresh produce. Once the bulbs are formed, they are surrounded with organic mulch to boost tenderness. Avoid high temperatures and dry soil, both of which trigger bolting and downgrade the bulb’s quality.

When are fennel bulbs in season?

From seed to harvest, the fennel bulbs take about 12–14 weeks to mature. As such, fennel bulbs are usually in season from fall to winter, although home-grown varieties may appear in the early summer or spring.

You can find fennel bulbs in most grocery stores and farmers’ markets when they are in season. Instacart curates fresh produce near you to save you the trouble of hunting them down.

What should I look for when buying fennel bulbs?

When buying fennel bulbs, choose small- to medium-sized veggies that are firm to the touch. The reason being, large bulbs are stringier, which may work for soups and stews, but not so much in stir-frys and salads.

You’ll also want to avoid bulbs that are:

  • Discolored (e.g., they have bruises and/or brown spots)
  • Wilted or split
  • Moist and/or overly soft

Lastly, check that the fennel stalks are crisp and straight with vibrant green fronds. Fresh fennel bulbs will also emit a subtle fragrance reminiscent of anise or licorice.

If you’re interested in fresh produce delivery, you can easily shop for fennel bulbs via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to share with your Instacart shopper specific preferences or directions on choosing the best bulbs.

How to store fennel bulbs

As a fresh root vegetable, the aroma of fennel bulbs fades quickly. Here’s what you can do to preserve their distinctive scent for as long as possible:

  1. Cut the stalks and fronds from the bulbs
  2. Wrap the stalks, fronds, and bulbs separately in dry plastic bags
  3. Store the plastic bags in the fridge (properly stored fennel bulbs can last up to a week)

Alternatively, you can freeze the bulbs for up to 12 months. You can also freeze the fronds—mince, then place them in a dry, sealed jar before refrigerating.

How to tell if fennel bulbs are bad

As fennel bulbs don’t have a long shelf life, they can go bad before you have the chance to use them up.

Look out for warning signs such as browned or shriveled patches. Rotten fennel bulbs may also feel mushy in certain spots or give off a foul smell. When that happens, it’s time to throw them away and replenish your supply.

What can I substitute for fennel bulbs?

As mentioned earlier, fennel bulbs aren’t available throughout the year (unless you have a hidden supply in the back of your freezer).

If you find yourself wanting to recreate a dish reminiscent of the delectable bulbs, consider these alternatives instead:

  • Celery: With a crunchy texture, it’s the perfect substitute for raw fennel bulbs.
  • Leek: On the other hand, the leek is at the top of mind for cooked fennel bulbs.
  • Bok choy stem: It’s a popular alternative to fennel bulbs in savory dishes.
  • Onion: Red onions offer a stronger zest than fennel’s delicate anise flavor. Meanwhile, white onions taste just as sweet as the sauteed bulbs.

Check your pantry and see if you need to stock up on any of the above produce. If the answer is yes, Instacart offers same-day delivery for fresh produce near you in as little as two hours.

Light up your dishes with fennel bulbs

It turns out there’s more than meets the eye with fennel bulbs. Whether you want to toss raw sliced bulbs into your salad or top off your baked chicken with fennel fronds for garnish, these bulbs will have your back and your dishes.

If you’d like to sample the mild, unique taste of fennel bulbs, order them through Instacart. To start an order, simply add fennel bulbs to your cart. Shop fennel bulbs.



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