Eat your weeds with this simple wild fennel recipe! Many invasive weeds are edible, some of them we are familiar with such as the beloved Blackberry Bush, other’s I’ve celebrated in previous posts including the familiar Dandelion (see Wild Edibles – Dandelions, How To Harvest and Women’s Health/). Wild Fennel is a common weed, originating from the Mediterranean and it resembles dill but has a strong anise, or licorice, aroma and flavour. You have likely come across it many times, in your backyard, in an open field, or trailing your favourite walking path. Anise, or licorice, can be an acquired taste, but when prepared properly the strong anise flavour is mellowed by the sweetness of the dates and creaminess of the nuts. This Wild Fennel Recipe of Pesto with Dates and Hazelnuts uses freely available weeds, combined with Vancouver Island Hazelnuts for a truly local dish.
”Many weeds are edible, this wild fennel recipe uses this common weed to make a simple appetizer or snack. Wild fennel has been used for centuries as a spice and a herbal medicine.”
Wild Fennel differs from the fennel bulb that we find in supermarkets- you can keep digging but you won’t find an edible bulb. In the fall yellow flowers will form, and from here the fennel seeds can be harvested and added to your spice cupboard. Herbalists will prescribe fennel for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation, facilitating birth, and increasing libido. It is also used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, bronchitis, cholera, backache, bedwetting, dyspepsia, flatulence, bloating, loss of appetite, and visual problems. Clinical evidence suggests that fennel is possibly effective for relieving colic in infants (1,2).
When we talk about eating locally, we presume that all nuts are grown in far off places. We are so blessed on Vancouver Island to have access to the humble hazelnut and hazelnut farms all over Vancouver island help us lower our food miles. Hazelnuts are harvested in autumn, but once dried they can be purchased year-round from local suppliers (I purchased mine at For Good Measure). Hazelnuts may be most familiar to us from our not-so-healthy childhood favourite spread Nutella, or the special occasion treat Ferrero Rocher. Hazelnuts, like all nuts, come with a vast array of health benefits. Consumption has been attributed to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease hazelnuts, a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and they can also help lower post-meal spikes in blood sugar levels (3).
This fennel recipe originates from a Lebanese friend of a friend, and after much experimenting, I’ve realized that exact measurements necessary. Harvest your Wild Fennel from a clean source, away from roadsides and sprayed agricultural fields. If you have never harvested Wild Fennel before, and want to experiment with any fennel recipe, go with someone who has to ensure proper identification. Adjust the amount of dates based on your desired sweetness, and you may use whatever nut you have available (tastes great with almonds or pistachios). Go easy on the salt; as Heather says ‘it is there to enhance the flavour but not to confuse the flavours’.
Wild Fennel Recipe - Pesto with Dates and Local Hazelnuts [Vegan, GF]
- 1 ½ cups wild fennel packed
- 5 dates
- ¼ cup hazelnuts
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
- If your dates are hard, you can soak them in hot water for a few minutes while preparing the other ingredients.
- Place your nuts in a food processor and process slightly, looking for a course texture, careful to not let them turn into a flour.
- Roughly chop, or tear the fennel fronds to lengths that your food processor can handle. Add the dates and a pinch of salt. Process until the pesto is well incorporated. Add in the olive oil, and process further until a consistency of your liking. A smooth paste is nice for spreading on crackers, a more chunky consistency is well suited to pastas.
- Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make a large batch and freeze in individual containers to enjoy throughout the year.
1 Weizman Z, Alkrinawi S, Goldfarb D, et al. (1993) Efficacy of herbal tea preparation in infantile colic. Journal of Pediatrics
2 Elgayyar, M., Draughon, F. A., Golden, D. A., and Mount, J. R. (2001) Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from plants against selected pathogenic and saprophytic microorganisms. Journal of Food Protection
3 David J. A. Jenkins (2008) Possible Benefit of Nuts in Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Nutrition https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/138.9.1752S
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.