The uses for fennel go far beyond the kitchen however; fennel has been used as a medicinal herb by the early Romans and Greeks. Fennel was well known to the Ancients and was cultivated by the ancient Romans for its aromatic fruits and succulent, edible shoots. Fennel is native to Europe and is a garden plant in North America. This plant was attached by Linnaeus to the genus Anethum, but was separated from it by De Candolle and placed with three or four others in a new genus styled Foeniculum, which has been generally adopted by botanists. This was corrupted in the Middle Ages into Fanculum, and this gave birth to its alternative popular name, ‘fenkel.’ A member of the parsley family, the plant resembles dill with its small clusters of upturned yellow umbrel flowers, but it easily distinguished by its sweet licorice aroma and taste. A tall wispy perennial it earns a place in any well stocked herbal garden not only for its culinary uses but also as one of the best digestive aids that also relieves gas. As early as the tenth century A.D. the mystic Hildegard of Bingen recommended fennel seeds as a treatment for body odor. At Indian restaurants you may see fennel seeds instead of after dinner mints. Fennel is widely cultivated, both in its native range and elsewhere, for its edible, strongly-flavoured leaves and seeds. The flavour is similar to that of anise and star anise, though usually not as strong.
Fennel has a distinctive smell rather like Aniseed. The roots are large, thick and white and are carrot shaped root produces a stout, pithy, finely grooved stem with fine buish stripes. The leaves are decompound, dissected into numerous filiform segments, the upper leaves on broad sheaths that surround the stem.The bright golden flowers, produced in large, flat terminal umbels, with from thirteen to twenty rays, are in bloom in July and August. The Yellow flowers appear from July to October. The fruit consists of two joined carpels, together taking an oblong form with prominent ribs. Fennel looks very much like dill with its feather leaves and yellow umbel flowers and hollow stems and they have the fragrance of anise, or licorice.