Fennel bulbs are large white bulbs, composed of the lower leaves of the plant which grow just above the roots. You might also encounter fennel bulbs by their other name: sweet anise. Since fennel bulbs do not have a long shelf life, wait until you know you will prepare your bulbs within the week before harvesting them from your garden or purchasing them from a market. Slightly sweet in taste and crunchy in texture, fennel bulbs contribute a distinctive flavor to your dishes whether you serve them raw or cooked, but roasting fennel bulbs with other vegetables brings out their natural sweetness. The fennel bulb pairs well with savory and sweet flavors in most recipes.
Cut the fennel bulb just above where it meets the root when the bulb still measures less than 3 inches in diameter. Avoid waiting after this size as the fennel grows tougher inside, reducing the amount of edible bulb.
Trim the stalks from the top of the bulb and use them raw in salads or added to cooked meat dishes.
Pull all of the exterior leaves from the fennel bulb, leaving the interior, more tender leaves.
Slice the fennel bulb in half, lengthwise, to expose the layers on the inside of the bulb.
Rinse the bulb, inside and out, with water, allowing the water to flow between the layers on the inside to rid the bulb of any dirt caught as each successive leaf layer grew around the center bulb.
Halve the two portions of the fennel bulb to create quarters. Cut the core out from each of the four quarters.
Slice the fennel bulb and use it raw or cooked in recipes calling for fennel bulb or sweet anise.