Fennel seeds are considered a spice, while the edible roots, stalks and leaves of the plant are considered an herb. The bulb shaped vegetable called fennel, Florence fennel or Italian fennel, while related to the herb fennel and similar in flavor, is not the same plant.
Fennel is native to the Mediterranean and eventually north into Europe and into the Far East. There are two primary types of fennel – bitter fennel and sweet fennel. In the US bitter fennel is more common and is grown in Argentina, central Europe, Germany, Hungary, India and Russia. Our bitter fennel is cultivated in India.
Bitter fennel’s name is Foeniculum vulgare and is a member of the Apiaceae family (parsley family). The shape of Fennel Seeds is oval and ridged while color varies from pale or bright green to brownish yellow. Fennel Seeds resemble their family member caraway seed (although a bit less curved than caraway). Our Indian grown fennel is straighter and smaller than European fennel with a sweet anise flavor.