When I was a kid fennel grew wild along the railway tracks, we all knew the smell but we'd never think of eating it. Indeed I'm not sure that it was an edible variety. Then later I became used to the smell and the taste of fennel seeds in Indian cooking. The next stage in my culinary education was bulb fennel. I'd see the bulbs in the vegetable market but never buy them as I was unsure what I'd do with them.
Fennel is widely grown and widely available. I remember on my first trip to a little town south of Rome seeing a paddock with a crop with a feathery dark green leaf. At a distance I thought it was carrots. Asking my host I was told that it wa