Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a member of the plant family Apiaceae (formerly the Umbelliferae). There are different varieties of the same species, one which forms a large bulb (swollen stem), sometimes called anise in the store, and is eaten like celery and one which is grown for seeds.
Known as "der Fenchel" in German, it is often used in cooking and as a medicinal herb. Together with caraway, fenugreek and anise seed, it makes up a large part of the herbs used in German cuisine since the Middle Ages.
Fennel seeds are used in "Brotgewürz" in Bavaria, and as a tea to sooth upset stomachs. Brew crushed seeds in hot water for ten minutes and drink. Pediatricians in Germany often suggest fennel oil drops for colicky babies.
Fennel bulbs are used, especially in winter salads when other fresh vegetables are scarce (see Raw Fennel Salad). Fennel is grown year round, in southern Europe and in Holland greenhouses.