Fennel: the Devil seed

3 01 2008

fennel-seeds.jpgCan you imagine the first caveman who yanked a fennel plant from the roadside and decided that the funny little brown seeds would be a great addition to sausage? (When I say “caveman” I probably mean “Italian”)

“What is fennel?” you might ask. I call it the devil seed. I remember the first time I bit into one of these suckers. I was enjoying an all-meat pizza (can’t remember where at) and I was gobbling up the last bits of scrap left on the pizza pan. I recall reaching for a small sausage ball and wondering what that interesting little seed was that was poking out of the side, yet unwittingly categorizing it as merely a part of the spices and seasonings. Thinking back to this gastronomically momentous yet insipid moment, it all seems to go by in slow motion…

Two fingers delicately pinch the sausage bit and makes its way towards my pizza hole [insert dream sequence here]

I can see it now, just like in the movies: the beautiful woman picks up the poisoned drink, known to be tainted only by the protagonist, her lover. He glances her direction and sees that she has unwittingly picked up the martini with the poisoned olive. The entire scene is in slow motion; the edges blur as the protagonist rushes toward her, screaming “Noooo.” But its too late. She has poised the glass on her lips and imbibed, sending the poison rushing through her veins, and causing her brain to instinctively say “What the %*?! was that!?”

My teeth crushed through that miniscule seed sending an explosion of bitterness onto my tongue that I’ve never tasted before. I actually gagged and questioned whether this devil seed was actually part of the sausage seasoning or some foul stowaway that ruined my lunch. Scanning the pizza pan, I noticed that several of these seeds were scattered about. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? (I’m not sitting under a tree, am I?) Why have I never tasted this disgusting seed before? Am I going to die?

Well, for years I instinctively shunned these seeds, laboriously picking them out of anything to prevent myself from ingesting them again. Until one day, my curious brain began to wonder what they tasted like. It has been so long that I just couldn’t remember. Kind of like having a baby. Its rumored that the body produces some alien chemical to make women forget the pain of childbirth, just so they can do it all over again. In my case, that blocked memory, likewise, served no purpose as I decided to eat that sausage loaded with fennel seeds, only to quickly turn it into an oral projectile.

Okay, first of all, fennel is a weed and actually considered an invasive species in the U.S. That should be your first clue to not put it in my food. The fruit of the plant is its seed, which looks like a grooved grain of rice, slightly more pointed at its ends, and brown or green when fresh and somewhat of a dull gray as the seed ages (see pic). The seed is edible, but that in no way means that it tastes good. It has a similar taste to anise, which tastes somewhat like black licorice, but more bitter. How that enhances the flavor of food is beyond me. In addition, almost every use of fennel is in seed form. It is highly aromatic and has a strong flavor. But who wants to crunch into seeds when eating sausage, of all things? The textures just don’t go together. It is rare to find anyone cooking with fennel powder because it is hard to find and expensive as well. The leaves of the plant are very similar to dill (long, thin, and wispy). Used like dill, it can be a great garnish, adding aroma and some flavor. But the seed? Disgusting.

If you have never tried the seed, don’t just take my word for it. Dump a few in your mouth and then let me know what you think (insert evil laugh here).

If you run a pizza joint, stop putting this nasty seed in your pizza, and refuse to buy your sausage from anyone who uses it.

If you are a cook and can convince me you have a great use for the fennel seed, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, relegate this plant to where grows: on roadsides.

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94 responses

3 01 2008
thatruth2006

Great stuff. I have a blog where I discuss food and cooking.

Check it out at:

http://www.zoknowsfood.wordpress.com

Thanks.

3 01 2008
Sherxr

Fennel seeds are important to indian cuisine. They used them widely in most of their dishes. Indians are famous for their clever use of spices and herbs. For us, even trying to differentiate the slight difference in fennel and cumin is a hard problem. I guess if you hate fennel, you will probably hate caraway seeds that bakers use in their breads too.

3 01 2008
Jorge Goyco

If you go to Indian Restaurants, usually at the front door they have a pretty little dish of colored seeds. They look deceptively like they might taste wonderful, but they don’t. Usually I tell first time Indian Cuisine friends that it’s a traditional after meal mint…I don’t know anyone who hasn’t spit them out…in fact, I’ve always wondered why there aren’t a bunch of fennel plants growing outside of Indian Restaurants.

I love your visual writing…keep it up.

jorge

4 01 2008
ieat

Sherxr – I’ll say it again: “I hate fennel seeds.” My eyes have special filters that can spot them anywhere, and I have yet to encounter an Indian restaurant that uses them to any great extent. Here in San Antonio I’ve been to about 5 Indian places and ordered several items, but not seeds. However, Jorge, now that you mention it, they do have a dish of them at the register. I’ve never really thought about that before. I just thought that maybe Ganesh likes them so they leave a dish out for him (kind of like leaving hay for the 3 King’s camels). You won’t see me freshening my mouth with those devil seeds.

4 01 2008
K

Blech. I’m with you; I hate fennel, almost as much as I hate anise. And that’s saying a lot, since there are very few things in this world I actually hate to eat. Fennel in sausage ruins the entire thing for me. There might only be a miniscule amount in there, but to me it tastes like the entire sausage was rolled in crushed fennel; it’s just such an overwhelming taste. πŸ˜›

8 04 2008
Bill K.

Amen! Finally there is someone who shares my sentiments regarding this disgusting seed. Fennel and caraway should both be uprooted and burned — every last bleeping plant! Fennel doesn’t belong in sausage, and caraway doesn’t belong in bread. The fennel had caused me to think I hated sausages, until I tasted fennel-less sausage. I then discovered the culprit. Similarly, caraway had caused me to think I hated rye bread, including seedless rye bread. Then I discovered bakers bake the seeded and seedless loaves together, indelibly imparting that nasty caraway flavor to the seedless bread. Can we start a campaign against these two abominable, abhorrent, loathesome, disgusting, nauseating, sickening seeds? Who actually likes these things? I’ve heard of people not minding them, but never of anyone loving them!

8 04 2008
ieat

Bill: as you can see from the other comments, you are not alone. As Jorge and Sherxr note above, fennel plays a prominent role in Indian cuisine. Still, doesn’t mean we have to like them. thanks

11 09 2008
Josh

I completely hate fennel. I’m eating some lasagna, as I type… after waiting 70 minutes for it to cook, starving by the way in the mean time, I took it out to cool, then to take my first bite, only to see its riddled with fennel. I really dont get it, its like dumping a bunch of lemon seeds in a dish. Ugh, nasty!

17 05 2012
Erika

I just had the same exact experience with Stouffer’s “Italian” lasagna. Which is just like their regular lasagna (which is great) but with tons of these awful things in it! Which makes it inedible for me. They just get stuck in your teeth or end up left over in your mouth after everything else that’s actually edible is gone. Then I have to spit them out. Gross.

22 09 2008
PEACHES

Oh, I think I found my cosmic twin! I too, discovered the foul taste that is fennel via a sausage pizza. I haven’t had a piece in at least 3 years… ruined my coleslaw yesterday and just right now, Ibit into a disgusting rye bagel full of caraway, too! (For some reason, I thought it was a chocolate bagel – I’m a bit touched in the head). I need to go rinse my mouth out with gasoline.

12 10 2008
TD

OK, time to hear from the other side…

Fennel seeds are delicious. They freshen the breath and soothe the stomach. Indian restaurants frequently have a dish of them mixed with sugar crystals and other little things to be munched on after dinner like a mint.

You can buy them in bulk at places like Whole Foods. I used to keep them at my desk at work and munch on them all day. Mmmmmmmmm! Deeeeeelicious!

If you’re going to blog about food, try to develop your palate a little – funnel cakes and cotton candy are NOT good food.

13 10 2008
ieat

Ha, ha, TD. You’re so funny! Obviously you haven’t read any other entries on my blog. Otherwise, you would see that I actually enjoy many foreign foods (hmm, imagine that). However, fennel is repulsive to ME, and apparently everyone else who has commented thus far. Don’t hate me, though.

19 11 2008
Jeressia

Oh my god! I actually found this article while looking for the name of that nasty seed! I hate fennel. The taste is so STRANGE and it lasts for a while. I wish people would stop using it!

6 06 2012
Matthew

Me too! Do you all hate cilantro as well???

27 09 2012
ieat

No, sorry. Cilantro is awesome! But I understand. A lot of people don’t like it. But, it is used extensively in my two favorite types of cuisines: Latin and Asian.

29 01 2015
neev

so.. everyone. in the whole world, should stop eating it because YOU don’t like it?? nope. I’m never gonna support you. not a single fennel seed lover is gonna support you. pizza and sausage are SUPER WRONG dishes to add fennel seeds.hate the dumb cook, not the seed.

28 03 2009
Angela

I was about to order fennel seeds to improve my son’s breath because we’ve been remiss to help him establish good oral hygiene habits. But if he doesn’t like the taste of breath-freshening toothpaste or breath mints, he probably won’t like fennel seeds either. Hmm. Now what should I do…Back to Tom’s Orange Monkey toothpaste I guess. Even though it doesn’t improve his dogbreath.

11 05 2009
Linda

I too stumbled upon your writing while searching ask.com “what are the little seeds on pizza?” Once you have bitten into one of those nasty little things, you never forget it! LOL!

19 05 2009
Matt

I was picking this stuff out of some turkey sausage while reading this. This “seasoning” is up there with raw onions on my list. Nasty…I won’t order sausage pizza from somewhere I haven’t been and know whether or not they put fennel in their sausage.

1 06 2009
Constantina

Fennel seeds are made for Italian and Indian Cuisine. As a Chef, spices are to be used according to the individual consumer’s palate. There are things that one will try in life that they LOVE and Hate. Is this really a reason to blog about something as minimal as a fennel seed? I use them and get rave reviews for my masterpiece dishes.

5 06 2009
Amy

Woohoo! Preach on, my brethren and sistren! I DESPISE fennel seed! I’ve always hated Italian sausage, but I never knew what that foul, horrid flavor was in it that makes me gag every time I try it. Then I recently bought some jarred spaghetti sauce that had these little things in it that looked like tiny flower buds and tasted like a cow accidentally ate black licorice, chewed on it with her cud for days, and then pooped it out. I looked it up and discovered it was fennel seed, which is also used in most Italian sausage. It was a lightbulb moment. Now I know why I HATE Italian sausage! BLECH!

18 06 2009
CheBruno

I order my Rueben’s on multi-grain…I wish I didn’t have to, but I cannot stand caraway seeds. I feel the same way about fennel seeds.

14 09 2009
Jimmy

Well , I guess that since I’m Italian I fall into the caveman category. I absoloutly love the seed ,the plant , the smell of it all and not to mention the delicious taste. They are not bitter at all they have a sweet licorice flavor with maybe a hint of topsoil. Italian and Indian food would not be the same withought it. I have an entire stand of it growing on the side of my house wich the bees love also.Everyone has their own “taste” and I use that term loosely. Maybe you really don’t like Italian or indian food , and maybe you really don’t like rye because it is this little seed that makes these things taste the way that they do. Obviously if you were to take a whole handful of these seeds and throw them ito your gaping maw , and grind them into oblivion with your primitive teeth they surely would taste way to overpowering and probably even revolting. But since I’m a caveman you probably shouldnt listen to me..

15 03 2010
Stratus

OMG.. I really really really really detest fennel seeds. I can’t for the life of me understand why some people like this flavour. It’s horrendous.. people think I should like it so they give me fennel teas, and licorice-y liquors, and salads with fennel bulbs mixed for that “refreshing” taste.. I usually spit it out and run for the tap and the toothbrush to get the flavour out of my mouth .. and they even have toothpaste flavoured with this demon substance! (thankfully, only in “health food” shops) .

I will pick every black jelly-bean out of a pack and give it away (or throw it away) – even if i’m told that they are black-current flavoured.. because what if one is licorice?

The offending substance is called anethole (or it may as well be arsehole) – it’s the aromatic compound found in licorice, star anise, fennel and such. apparently basil and tarragon are related.. I love basil.. and I don’t know if I’ve tasted tarragon and known it.

24 04 2010
crissyb

lol, I was just eating a meat lovers pizza and once again, bit into one of those DISGUSTING little abominations, finally I know what the heck their called…I HATE fennel!

17 06 2010
Andrea

I love fennel and caraway. I love seeded rye, and italian sausage with fennel. And I’m not italian.

18 06 2014
Debbie Taylor

I feel exactly the same. You looking to adopt a sister? Lol!

18 02 2011
jake

Foul, vile weed! Sorry, but fennel is NOT important to Indian cuisine. I’ve been there, and saw no evidence of fennel use whatsoever. I asked an Indian friend who runs a restaurant in SF about it, and he gave me a WTF? reaction. Though from southern India, he’d traveled to the North (India has roughly three different flavor zones: north, middle, south), but he’d never had any dish with fennel (called “sonf”). He said it was not customary in any recipe he’d ever heard of in India other than supari, which is an unpleasant mixture of seeds meant to be chewed after the meal, often avoided by even Indians.
And I’ve never eaten a sausage in Italy that had fennel as an ingredient, only US made sausage.

8 03 2011
Sarah

:3 I love fennel seeds. I order a few pounds every now and then and chew a couple handfuls as a snack each day. Sometimes I mix a few candied ones in for added deliciousness.

❀ fennel

3 04 2011
KwHudd

Fennel seeds are found in alot of your more expensive sauces. Like garlic, the oils are drawn from them to give the dish a little more twang and spunk. The first one is always rough, but these have to be individually crushed between your teeth before you get the full aroma or shock. In consuming food such as pizza or spaghetti, that seldom happens. But without them, your dish would be a little blander.

28 05 2011
Ivy

Fennel seeds are not bad!!!!!!!!!
They have a MULTIDUDE of health benefits and their licorice flavor is to DIE FOR.
Also, my friend used them in a breast enlargment treatment that worked!!!!!!!!

10 06 2011
Alex

I despise fennel from the first time I tasted it. I immediately memorized the image of the offending seed and the next time I was in the supermarket I looked at all the spices till I identified it. I avoid all unknown Italian sausage because of it.

I am a supertaster and I believe that most people who hate fennel are as well. For those unfamiliar a supertaster is a person who experiences the sense of taste with far greater intensity than average. A heightened taste response, particularly to bitterness, is an indicator of a supertaster, and fennel is nothing if not noxiously bitter.

All of you who love fennel probably fall into the much larger percentage of the population being either medium tasters or nontasters. Not everyone can posses the genetic advantage in avoiding potentially toxic plant alkaloids like us supertasters, so don’t feel bad about your lack (literally) of taste. : )

8 12 2014
Rob

Sorry but I have to bust you theory.

I too am a super taster, and I really like fennel in sauces and sausages. I don’t find it particularly bitter, and think that it’s spicy flavor helps a lot of dishes.

However, all the things you said about fennel, I would certainly apply to cilantro. I can’t stand the stuff- ruins anything it touches.

I’m curious how you feel about cilantro?

11 06 2011
klo

i eat fennel seeds with yogurt..thats the only way i can eat it… fennel seeds taste so NASTY!!! … but im trying to add all kind of seeds to my diet…
*Sesame,Sunflower,Pumpkin ,Chia seeds…

6 07 2011
Sashank

Folks relax…though I agree to teh freedom of choice that any person can exercise, I just want to inform you all that the spices in general are not just used in various cultures for flavor and taste, but also for their medicinal and digestive properties. So please dont hate it so much. Your grandmother might have used it in her cooking for a reason.

6 07 2011
Teo Ming Loong Winton

I searched on Google about fennel being disgusting, and your page was the first to come up. YOUR BLOG SPEAKS TO MY HEART. I have always despised those bastard seeds from Hades. Furthermore, I’m an avid connoisseur of Indian food [being from Singapore] – even most Indian people don’t like this crap, and will find other ways to freshen their breath after a heavy, spice-laden meal… Expand your palate, my ass… a palate is subjective, and your tastes are your tastes. Just because you don’t enjoy black licorice and/or bowls of bridge mix doesn’t mean you don’t have a palate – it means you find the flavor of fennel to be wholeheartedly disgusting [and so do I]. The Jewish community has a penchant for consuming this stuff in droves, and while I don’t fancy rye bread specifically because of the anise notes, I LIVE for bagels and really think there are better things to do in life than spend five minutes picking fennel seeds/caraway fruits off of my bloody “everything” bagel just so I can enjoy it. My soul cries every time I find this demonic seed in my food, and I will set fire to this horrid weed if given the chance.

14 10 2011
Vincent

I might as well be eating a cockroach if I choose to eat a fennel seed. I’d roll over in my grave before I would even remotely volunteer to eat even 1 fennel seed.

23 12 2011
kaysi

As with so many other commenters, I stumbled across this blog doing a search on Italian sausage, which I have ALWAYS despised… I am eating a can of Progresso soup for lunch which, to my dismay, has a strong hint of that distasteful flavor in it. (It must just contain bits of fennel leaves, because the flavor WAS mild enough for me to finish the soup. I KNOW there were no seeds in it, thankfully.) It was interesting to read this post and the comments that followed… I have always HATED black licorice, too, and upon tasting a disgusting cookie at a Christmas party once discovered that I also hated anise. So I was not surprised to find that all of these flavorings are related. However, oddly, I LOVE caraway seeds!!! I don’t see anyone commenting here that they love one but hate the other… I must have a strange palate!

1 02 2012
masanarchy

I’m Italian, and absolutely hate fennel. I hate when people say Italian sausage isn’t Italian sausage without fennel. Growing up, we had a family friend that made the best Italian sausages in the Boston area. He was born in Italy, and refused to use fennel in is sausage unless someone specifically requested it. I grew up eating delicious home made Italian food, and have traveled to Italy several times. Not once have I encountered fennel seeds in food in Italy. The only time I have seen fennel seeds in something other than Italian sausages is when I got a pizza in Scottsdale, Arizona last year. After I noticed the pizza tasted funny, I looked under the cheese and saw hundreds of fennel seeds. I was completely disgusted and threw the pizza out. Fennel seeds are not an important part of Italian cooking, and should be banished from society.

8 08 2013
Emily

BANISHED FROM SOCIETY!!!!! Overreact much??? And just because ONE Italian person wasn’t exposed to fennel seeds while growing up doesn’t mean it’s not important in Italian cooking! I happen to LIVE in Italy and my family owns MANY ITALIAN RESTURANTS, and we use tons of fennel seeds in our cooking.

10 02 2012
Lion

No no no no no! All you fennel seed supporters can just munch that nasty crap as much as you want. In the meantime I think it is fair to say that something that tastes like black licorice has no place in pizza! Food would be blander without fennel seeds? Try again! The only sausage I can stand are the ones that dont contain them, and when it comes to sausage I LOVE it. But the first sign of a fennel seed and I want to vomit up my entire meal. The stuff is disgusting. I’m assuming anyone who doesn’t mind them in pizza has weak “bitter” tastebuds, or has an eating style that does not include enough chewing to actually break the nasty things open and experience their full deadly flavor. The only thing I have enjoyed fennel in is an herbal tea I had that was balanced out with many other sweet flavors. That is one instance where the flavor of licorice/fennel can add a subtle accent without being overwhelming, plus you aren’t eating the seeds, which are basically concentrated and unleash an EXPLOSION of flavor when you bite into one. I’ll be the first to say that people who like fennel seeds are much like people who like black licorice. Most of the world finds that flavor disgusting, the rest of you do it to be hipsters. Like what you want. That’s fine by me, but I too am not convinced that there are many people who actually enjoy this vile seed. Yuck! Pa-tooey!

20 02 2012
j

all of you small minded people without any palate whatsoever, who don’t want to accept the fact that there are so many foods with so many different flavors all around the world other than mac and cheese and mcdonald’s, need to get a life. spending your 5 to 10 minutes writing about how you detest a certain seed or spice is ridiculous. as if it were a cancer. true italian sausage, like even say on pizza, has fennel seed in it. that’s what makes the flavor. even stupid pizza hut “dog food” sausage has some fennel in it. anyone who knows what great italian sausage and indian cuisine is (as well as many other foods you probably like) knows that fennel is an important and great tasting ingredient to the respective food it is in. look on the list of ingredients in many foods you eat now, and you will find something in there you either did not know was in there, and/or something you thought you did not like… but DO, because you eat it often. stop being so closed minded. blindfold yourself, sit down, and taste different foods. then ask what was in them. you’d be surprised at the results. i bet if you ate an insect blindfolded, you might like it. so spend your time enjoying food, not criticizing a spice which is in many things you already eat and like, without even knowing it. open your minds, and expand your palates. also expand your intellect and stop being such haters of any one thing, even a seed. grow up. your little minds are of a 10 year old.

8 08 2013
Emily

You are completely right

3 01 2014
Sean

Preach it brother!

18 06 2014
Debbie Taylor

Thank you! I was wondering if everyone on this page was 10 years old or stupid or both.

4 08 2014
Randy Goodrum

Just because someone doesn’t like fennel seeds makes them immature??? Give me a break!!!

8 04 2012
lostc0z

I HATE FENNEL seeds!

2 05 2012
Lisa Richard

I too detest fennel seed and totally avoid italian sausage if fennel seed is used… i hate when they have it in pizza sauce or in anything!!! Yuck… Funny story… I went to eat at an indian restaurant recently where I found it to be really really delish… best curry I have ever tasted…however… at the end of the meal the waiter brought by a little bowl of what looked like candy sprinkles. I thought maybe they were minty or flavored with tamarind… I grabbed quite a few and started chewing… SURPRISE!!! Candy-covered fennel seeds… WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! totally ruined my whole meal!!!! Worst thing ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

17 05 2012
Erika

The taste is not what bothers me. It’s the TEXTURE! They’re like little rocks in your food. You can’t chew them. They’re always still in your mouth and I have to spit them out. Ruins anything they’re on. If they turned it into a powder to use as seasoning I wouldn’t mind it at all! It’s just the fact that they put the actual SEEDS in food. It’s like putting peanut shells or pepper seeds (also hate in my food) in your food. Does not belong.

19 07 2012
Paul

I just learned what fennel was when I bit into an italian sasuge thinking it was German ( look the same I guess) so I bit into it not wanting to be rude eat 3 quarters of it ( bad idea) and now 8 hours later still feel like I’m gonna throw up and have hurtburn ( its 2am I needs meh sleep ) not to mention it made my insomnia worse( i take meds for it. ) I am quarter iltalion to

18 02 2014
Tracey

I love that so many of you found this blog the same way I did. I literally Googled, “what is that horrible seed in Lasagna” and yours was the first to pop up. I detest fennel! There has never been something in a dish that actually bothered me so much to the point that I was obsessing about how much I hated it for HOURS! I too ate one of those frozen Italian lasagnas from the store and the thing was riddled with that obnoxious seed! Terrible, terrible, texture and flavor. And I’m realizing that is probably the reason I’m not too fond of some Italian sausage. Glad I’m not alone! I love how fennel-haters attack the seed, and fennel-lovers attack fennel-haters. Lol. And btw, my palate is just fine. πŸ™‚

29 01 2015
neev

haha
eat fennel seeds, at least a teaspoon full. it will help ease the “throw up and heartburn” problem. fennel seeds are also medicinal. trust me.

12 10 2012
miked1482

I came across your blog wandering the same eluding question of the said “devil seed” I loved your blog so much I signed up for the site just to “like” your posting! I HATE those HORRIBLE SATANIC NAZI SEEDS! Why would anybody ever ever ever ever wish to consume these most repulsive little pieces of taste bud hating evil is beyond me! I’m glad to have found someone shares my hatred of these! Lol

22 11 2012
terry

my mom’s side of the family is completely italian, but i learned the hard way, at a young age, that fennel/anise/licorice is NOT for me. they tried to tell me that those italian anise cookies were good, and that licorice was candy, but it all made me sick. after eating italian sausage a few times as a child, and throwing up each time, my grandma understood, but my mom thought i was being difficult. she would try to “sneak” it in, telling me all sorts of lies— but i only had to smell it cooking to start feeling nauseated. i was a grown woman with kids of my own before i realized that not all sausage contains fennel, and i do quite well with those. i can sometimes eat indian food, but not always, so since i never know, i have to avoid it. i also cannot stand olives or any type of squash, including zuchinni (it affects me almost as bad as fennel), but i love eggplant. and cilantro. and liver. and spinach. isn’t life strange?

23 01 2013
Lisa

The first time I had fennel seed was in grade school. I took a bite of that strange rectangular pizza and…WHAM! A fennel seed disaster! I never ate school cafeteria pizza again and have avoided those seeds ever since.

5 02 2013
Aaron

Seriously? Who out there has the opinion that just because you don’t like something the rest of the world should be shunned of it? Fennel and fennel seeds are wonderful when used in the correct amounts and with the correct ingredients so there Is a balance of flavor. Sure they can ruin a dish when too much is used, or used w/ the wrong ingredients. And as far as sausage or any type of meatball goes a variety of textures from soft too crunchy can be a good thing. One of my favorite meatball recipes uses chopped roasted walnuts inside. The variety of textures is what makes them amazing. Now I realize that these are all opinions and that just because I like varieties in texture or fennel seed doesn’t make my opinion the right one, but it doesn’t make your opinion correct either. So I suggest that you become tolerant of others food preferences. Furthermore, if you don’t like fennel seed don’t eat at that particular pizzeria. Something tells me that they won’t mind not having the jerk that complains about their recipes not show up to order a pizza anymore. However, those of us that like the taste of fennel seeds should still be able to enjoy them at the restaurants that you despise them at

14 02 2013
Martin Dew

I make my own Italian Sausage just because of the fennel seeds. I substitute caraway seeds in it’s place and find it is a much better experience.

25 04 2013
Bill

I love black licorice and anise candy, but I’m pretty sure I would not enjoy that flavor on pizza. I don’t think fennel seeds taste like licorice, but I do not order sausage pizza unless I know it is not made with fennel seeds. It is disgusting biting into one of them while enjoying an otherwise good pizza. If fennel seed is what keeps it from being bland, then I’ll take mine bland thanks.

11 06 2013
Nikki

I absolutely LOVE your descriptive analysis of caraway seeds. I actually googled “I hate caraway seeds” and this post is what appeared first. Glad I’m not alone, fennel/caraway is truly the “devil.” I find myself spending countless hours of my life picking off the stupid, disgusting seeds prior to toasting my all-time favorites “everything bagel.” If only the disgusting seed would be abolished from coking forever, my life would be so much simpler. Again, thank you for confirming my hatred for these little disgusting, pointless, and meal-ruining seeds.

19 07 2013
Ron Joyce

Your comments are music to my ears, but I can’t find a recipe for Italian sausage without fennel. I make my own sausage but so far I’ve had no luck in finding the recipe. Ron

31 07 2013
David

Here is an idea, dont order pizza that has italian sausage on it. Subjective opinions are just that, your subjective opinion!

8 08 2013
Emily

I happen to LOVE fennel seeds, and can eat them everyday. But whether you like fennel seeds or not kinda depends on the type you eat: the think dark ones or the light fat ones. But I completely understand where you are coming from, I know a lot of people, even in my family, who completely hate fennel seeds. Overall, everyone has their own opinion. BTW: You are an amazing writer! Keep it up!

14 10 2013
Sean

Your tongue is definitely broken. Fennel is not bitter. In fact it is delicious! It is the reason I love Italian sausage.

You probably don’t like caraway seeds either. Poor provincial Texan. I bet you watch Fox News too. You really should get out more often. I know it’s hard to believe, but Texas is not the center of the universe.

3 11 2013
Adam

I love fennel, especially on pizza. Found this article when I was wondering why more pizzas weren’t made with fennel as an ingredient. To each his own. πŸ™‚

6 11 2013
Pat

All forms of licorice flavors make me throw up. Trust that waiter whose shoes I ruined. I pray that fennel plants and seeds, anise, taragon, black licorace candies and original-flavored Niquil be sent to another solar system while experts on Earth are figuring out a way to permanently remove the weed, seed, and related plants/flavors. I look forward to the day gourmet chefs stop using it, and hope that will spread to regular restaurants and home kitchens everywhere!

10 12 2013
Archi

Knowing we was raised thinking pizza isn’t food . So after my first son turned 7 we had a party at a pizzeria . My first slice I could see a seed on it . Is it supposed to be there , so now I’m scanning the damn pizza . Ok they are all over it . In my mouth two chews and out I spit . WHY in THE HELL WOULD YOU USE IT . No way you can convince me its improving the flavor . My grown men love pizza to this day mostly because the ninja turtles . As for me it’s not a meal , maybe a snack for some teenagers .

6 02 2014
tighSee

When reading this i get the impresssion the author is about 12 years old and one who most likely grew up on moms makeshift cooking…but when it comes to traditional recipe you will see fennel and other seeds and or flavors that seem repulsive now may be tasty in the future…having a mother who is a great cook i developed a taste for onions and fennelat an early age…dont close your mind to fennel…it usually takes several separate instances of tasting a new flavor to get accustomed to it

31 03 2014
Ρ”β„“Ρ”ΠΈΞ± (@elenalovva)

i really like fennel…… i find it really strange there are so many who hate it.. it flavors pizza, sausage, and all kinds of foods greatly. for some reason i do not get the same reaction as you when i bite into a fennel seed. i enjoy the taste in the dishes it compliments.. but if i were to just eat a fennel seed on its own, i imagine it’d be pretty bad. that doesn’t make it a bad flavor though!! it just has to be used wisely lol

4 04 2014
Robert

I know I’m way late on this topic, but my disdain for fennel seeds goes all the way back to my school lunches in the ’70s: gross, greasy sausage pizza with those little seeds sticking out all over the place, and it’s carried over 40 years later, so like at Pizza Hut, I’m careful as to what I get off the buffet because it seems like most of the pizzas with meat have to have Italian sausage — thankfully, the Supreme pizza is safe, as it uses regular pork sausage instead. Same thing at our pot luck dinners at church — if someone brings sausage, I know what’s lurking in there! 😦

14 05 2014
Brandon

I am a fan of fennel. Not to eat it straight, but I use a mortar and pestal to grind it up and add it to any homemade tomato sauce, ala lasagna, marinara, and pizza sauce. It’s actually what gives those sauces it’s distinct taste.

18 06 2014
Debbie Taylor

You sound like a spoiled arrogant child. Fennel seeds are wonderful and while I understand you may not share my enjoyment of them you’re childish, overblown and dramatic reaction is quite too much for any sane person to bear. Go back to your daddy and eat your milk toast like a good little spoiled rotten brat and quit demeaning things that you obviously know nothing about!

26 06 2014
Elizabeth Nguyen

I just bought some fennel seeds to put on my pizza. Mmmmmm good.

25 08 2014
Joyce

I really hate the taste of anise, licorice, caraway and fennel. I once saw a Dr. Oz where he had a discussion of why we love or hate certain foods. It has to do with our taste buds. Apparently it is often genetic and if you happen to have a taste bud for a certain flavor you like it but if you don’t it tastes bad to you. That is at least how I recall the info! I liked that it explained why we all have different tastes. He used cilantro as an example. I don’t csre for cilantro either πŸ˜‰

17 09 2014
Kieran Saighir

Thought I’d try my hand at making Italian sausage. Came online and looked at exactly eight different recipes. Not surprisingly, every single one of them called for fennel seeds. I say not surprisingly because I’ve been eating Italian sausage for three quarters of a century and I don’t believe I ever came across any that didn’t have these seeds included and I can’t imagine that I’d consider any sausage ‘Italian’ if it didn’t have the fennel in it. And in spite of the overwhelming amount of negatives here, I suspect most lovers of Italian sausage would agree with me.

18 09 2014
Alexandra

I was curious if I was the only one that though this my daughter made pizza and sprinkle Italian seasoning on it had gross overwhelming taste so we all took our cheese off yuck the powerful taste is like the pungent smell of cat urine lol!

10 10 2014
Jamie

I’m another lost soul who stumbled on you after googling fennel and wondering why anyone would like it (or anise, or caraway, or licorice). I have found my people and I thank you for letting us know we’re not crazy. Those little buggers ARE nasty! To chime in on some other observations, love basil and tarragon, only like cilantro in tiny doses. Fennel can just rot in hell, though.

26 10 2014
Alan

I’m totally with you on the hatred of fennel seeds. There’s actually a nice pizza chain around here in Phoenix that has large chunks of Italian sausage but they don’t have fennel seeds. I was so amazed and thrilled to find out about that because it seems impossible to get it without fennel seeds. BTW, I ate at a place called Zuni Grill on the riverwalk once and had the most fantastic roasted garlic salsa with my breakfast. Sadly, they didn’t sell it for take out. Ever tried it?

24 11 2014
susan

You are entirely correct. YUK! YUK! YUK! I avoid them like the plague. Ruins every dish I’ve ever tasted them in. When I shop for frozen pizza I check the ingredients list before before I buy because I refuse to eat anything with fennel seeds. It is most definitely a “devil seed.”

2 01 2015
Chuck

Hummmm… I guess that’s why the make Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla Ice Cream. *LOL*….You can’t please everyone.

17 01 2015
Patty

I hated sausage for many years until I finally discovered that it is the fennel I despise. I couldn’t figure out why I liked some link sausage but hated patty sausage. Sausage without fennel can be delicious.

I am a very adventurous eater and even like licorice. But I rank fennel even lower than McDonald’s crud.

26 01 2015
Another Paul

I love the licorice taste of fennel seeds, but you are correct, its a odd taste and only works in certain recipes, ie pizza sauce.
Key for myself is to crush them first in a mortar and pistil and spread evenly in the sauce. Biting into a whole seed if it hasn’t been slowed cooked to extract is flavor evenly into the sauce, can make for a overwhelming fennel taste.

29 01 2015
neev

dear, don’t know what you are describing but it’s definitely not fennel seeds. “bitter”? no. the so-called “chefs” that put fennel seed in your pizza or other dishes, that you disliked because of fennel seed, didn’t know how to use that seed. it should be eaten raw, roasted or with mouth freshners; not baked with some herbs/spices that don’t go with it. fennel seeds don’t go with “everything”. they are not “miracle spice” after all. and those “colourful sweet things”, yes i agree, not many will like its taste. it’s like caviar; not everyone likes it.. you need to get used to its taste. it’s a mouth freshner as well as helps in digestion and many like its taste. i LOVE fennel seeds. I’m like addicted to it. i like its “colorful sweet” version as well. i never had it in pizza though, and never would.. the sauces and cheese won’t compliment fennel seed.

P. S. FYI I’ve never seen anyone spitting out those “colourful sweet” fennel seeds.

P. P. S. “I’m surprised why Indian restaurants don’t have fennel seed tree”, that was pretty offensive. and racist. don’t go to Indian restaurants if you believe Indian cuisine is all about “fennel seeds”. if that’s your knowledge about Indian cuisine throughout your whole life then you should consider jumping out of that well for once in a while.

29 01 2015
neev

Indians use its powder or whole seed to SOME dishes, mostly snacks (and let me tell you it tastes DELICIOUS). in India fennel seeds are mostly used AFTER the meal. it IS important but not important as in “add as an ingredient in dishes” but rather a “mouth freshner and something to help in digestion”. almost every Indian restaurant has a small bowl full of fennel seeds and sugar crystals (i don’t like sugar crystals with fennel so i remove them) to cleanse and freshen mouth. i always take handful of it as the quality of fennel seeds they use is awesome! not artificially colored (AUTHOR : that’s what you might have eaten [if you ever ate raw fennel seed]; artificially colored fennel seeds. they taste bitter because of the artificial color, that is not the taste of fennel seeds) or too dry. so hope you understand; fennel seed is important AFTER the meal, not as an ingredient.

29 01 2015
neev

wow. you’re arrogant. i feel pity for you.. you can’t enjoy food like we “medium tasters” do. you will be criticizing EVERY ENJOYABLE FOOD POSSIBLE your whole life till you grow old and become one of us; “medium taster”. but it will be too late by then because you will lack all the nutrients we “medium tasters” get because your tongue will be too busy keeping you away from the “super bitterness” of foods that give more nutrients than you can imagine. fennel seed is an example. you will lack all its benefits (literally) because of your “super tongue”, and we, the “medium tasters ” will enjoy is benefits.
lots of pity for you from a fennel lover.

29 01 2015
neev

you should try roasting them and then try it, without yogurt. they taste WAYYYYYYYY different than raw.
ps. don’t turn the anywhere near deep brown, you will regret it. simply roast them till very light brown. if you’re not sure you can do it right, then just buy the roasted one.

29 01 2015
neev

actually fennel seeds are very fibrous. the “texture” that you dislike is fiber; which is healthy for you. and the seeds are easily “crushable” between your teeth. the part that you can’t crush between teeth is ‘fiber’, you are supposed to swollow it, which is not difficult at all. If by “like rock” you mean the whole seed, then you better double check what you are eating.. there are small rocks that roll along with fennel seeds. to sum it all : fennel seeds are easily crushable. nothing like rocks. or even near them… of course unless you have very very sensitive teeth.

11 02 2015
Mark Worthington II

I have not (on purpose) eatin those seeds in over 20 years. As a kid I just thought I didn’t like sausage and for some reason it tasted like black liquorice. Who wants that on their pizza anyway. . In my 20’s i got a meat lovers and had that taste again this time i put it to the seed and along with Italian sausage. So if i get sausage on pizza it has to be regular not Italian. At least I can eat sausage again.

Found this because I was looking for what type of sausage to use on a homemade pizza that wasn’t Italian or breakfast sausage. Good read.

Gonna have to share this cause people still think I’m nuts when i say that sausage taste like black jelly beans.

One more thing I read up there someone say they are good for better breath. So are the dinner mints at the register on the way out I’ll stick to those lol.

16 02 2015
bullockki

I hate the taste of fennel because I hate anything that tastes like licorice. But it is AMAZING at treating bloating and gas pain!! Just a pinch of these and a lot of courage to chew them and get them down and soon enough my stomach pain is gone! If only they tasted good! πŸ˜›

27 02 2015
traindodger

Well, to be honest, I actually really like the taste of fennel and caraway. They seem to enhance the savory flavors of meats. Probably to conceal the tang of cheap meat, honestly.

26 03 2015
Lily Shimizu

I feel this post on a spiritual level. I despise fennel seeds. The most vile, repulsive flavor I’ve ever experienced. It ruins anything it’s in and legitimately makes me feel sick. People compare it to black licorice, but I would eat black licorice before I ever knowingly eat a fennel seed ever again.

11 06 2015
423jenniferg

I know this is an old thread but thank you SO much for answering my 21 yr old question of -what the heck was in that pizza that made me vomit so violently that I refused to eat ANY sausage from the age of 16 to 25 years old! I was literally grown and married when my husband convinced me that a sausage patty wouldn’t kill me. I’ve seen the nasty little things in frozen lasagne wanna-be dishes and I’ve seen them in frozen meatballs. At 37 yrs old now I just had to know what those devil seeds were. Thanks πŸ™‚

19 08 2015
Mike Etheridge

Just ate a delicious hot Italian sausage and made sure to avoid the 2 fennel seeds sitting right next to each other in my last bite. Didn’t notice any others while eating. I totally hate those little demon seeds. Stop putting them in my sausage!

31 08 2015
Heather

I personally love fennel seeds in pizza. I wish all pizza places offered it as a topping. *nom nom*

9 09 2015
William A. Otis

To each their own, clearly — I love them in everything and most people don’t realize that most pizza (especially Pizza Hut) and sausage wouldn’t be the same without them. They might not be as pleasant (to some) when bitten into directly, but they provide an important flavor. A good analogy would be celery: I can’t stand celery raw (unlike fennel), but it provides an excellent flavor to soups and savory dishes, and most of them wouldn’t be the iconic dishes they are without it. But, there are many ways to get that flavor profile without putting big chunks of celery into a dish; very thin slices can be used, or even less visible and confrontational (to those who don’t like celery by itself) options can be used like celery powder, celery seeds (extremely tiny, like poppy seeds or smaller) or even celery salt can be a good choice. Most people think (for example) that chicken salad and chicken noodle soup aren’t savory enough without celery, but these options can be used to avoid the texture and extreme end of its flavor. Perhaps more people/companies should be using fennel powder or essence instead of the whole seeds. By the way, many people find MOST of the spices in the italian family (basil, thyme, savory, oregano, fennel, rosemary, etc) to be pretty “weird” and/or bitter when bitten into directly and freshly (yet they make astounding flavors when cooked with or sprinkled on almost anything); I’m not one of them, but I admit that the experience is a bit like biting into a pine needle. Since I like the idea of that I sometimes buy fresh rosemary (basically a branch with tiny pine needles) and chew a couple fresh for that pine-slash-mint flavor. Haha

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