The Fennel bulb is from the same plant that gives us Sauf seeds that we Indians eat after meals. It is native to the Mediterranean and the bulb is eaten both raw and cooked in a variety of cuisines, most famously Italian food.
The bulb of the fennel plant can be prepared and eaten as a vegetable and is braised, grilled, sauteed or sliced thinly and served in salads. Fennel is a wonderfully versatile vegetable which resembles a peeled onion bulb that someone has pressed between their hands so its no longer round.
It has the cool crunch of celery with a strong note of licorice when you take a bite. The flavour is similar to anise or tarragon. It is lovely sliced thin and served with Parmesan in a salad, luscious and filling in a cheesy gratin, and absolutely delicious roasted.
Roasted, fennel caramelizes at the edges and loses its crunch. The licorice notes that were so discernible when the fennel was raw leave only a hint when roasted but gaining a little sweetness. Even people who run from anything licorice flavoured, easily enjoy fennel when it is warm and roasted.
If you are serving fennel raw, it's best sliced very thin; a mandoline comes in handy here. Slices of the bulb can also be pickled and eaten as a snack.