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Any herbs NOT allowed in a proper absinthe?

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Too often these discussions degenerate into the clichéd "science versus art" dichotomy. I've my own bias, but see no reason to create a hard partition. Many an artist is a scientist as well. If in no other way than the tried and true route to enlightenment: trial and error. On the other hand, there are probably fewer scientists who achieve the transcendence so many call art. And just because you grok the scientific aspects doesn't preclude those "aha!" moments of creation. Is there intrinsic charm in artistic creation? We sure do prize such accomplishments. Artisanal versus commercial. Even if the products tasted the same, I'd wager most of us would throw in with the former.

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That picture of fennel tha Absinthist posted does not look like Florence fennel, I agree with Prol. Sorry Hiram, I have never seen real FF that looks like that. Looks like someone mixed in some common fennel with a few seeds of FF.

 

 

I kinda feel like a party-pooper for my last post. Been quiet around here.

 

I would like to follow up on the above quote (and several unquoted retorts). Could someone make the distinction between Florence and run-of-the-mill sweet/common fennel. If the images previously posted are unclear, could someone with better examples do a side-by-side for those of us that enjoy being educated?

 

Thanks in advance!

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I like to keep samples of all the herbs commonly found in absinthe available. When absinthe friends come over, the conversation will frequently be about the various herbs. We look, we munch and eventually, someone will simply have to taste the Wormwood. :devil:

 

Fennel.jpg

 

Left: Common fennel. Right: Florence Fennel.

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I was given samples of the various herbs a few months ago by a generous WS friend. The FF was interesting. It had a light mild anise taste but more earthy/herbal. I still have difficulty with proper descriptions. I have been able to pick it up, I think, in some of the drinks.

Taste the AA last. I've only tasted one other plant as bitter. *shudder* B)

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I am currently looking for much better type, it is not that easy to get the decent Florence Fennel in Poland, though. I can assure you that these darker parts have only spicier taste whereas in the lighter/greener ones, the taste is more refreshing.

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I noticed your text under the picture of the fennel: "There are some people claiming it is not that type but I have bought it under that very name."

That is a problem with FF; a lot of sellers claim they have FF, while they are actually selling common fennel, or - at best - sweet fennel. And if you haven't had the real thing, how are you supposed to know what is what?

(This inevitably brings to mind all the people who have bought Czech absinth, believing it is the real thing - because it was sold under that very name...) ;)

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I agree, that is the main reason I am still looking for the really Florence one. But I have to add none of the fennels presented have disappointed me whatsoever, so they were not that bad.

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Thanks for the graphics! It makes a lot more sense to me now. The obvious next question is how much of a difference using the common/sweet fennel versus the true Florence fennel makes in a given batch of absinthe. Or perhaps a better question is: how often can the difference be discerned? I suppose those with the most experience and sensitive palates have the advantage, but I am trying to figure out if I can put a finger on the difference among the commercial absinthe I've accumulated. How often is the common/sweet used by the commercial producers? If, as I suspect, the Florence is more expensive, then how often would a vendor be inclined to substitute?

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I remember this conversation coming up a few times. I tried to find a specific post or two from some of the tastefully informed members but a quick search for "fennel" produced over twenty pages! It's not a bad re-read, however.

 

Indeed, some manufacturers don't use any fennel. Some supposedly only use Sweet Fennel. It would be interesting to see a list of which absinthes use none, only Sweet Fennel, only Florence Fennel or a mix. That's a project that far exceeds my taste buds.

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After seeing what you've bought and where, I'm going to agree with Dr. Verte: that's common sweet fennel. And I'm not basing that on the appearance, I'm basing it on the purpose its sold for. What you have there is koperek włoski,(Italian fennel) not fenkuł Florencja (Florence fennel). Big difference. You want Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum. What you've got is Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce, aka Roman Fennel. Besides, why would you buy Florence fennel from an Indian spice company?

 

Florence fennel seeds (fruits actually) are useless for culinary purposes (trust me, once you've tasted sausage made with it, you'll agree :puke: ). Sweet fennel is what's sold to be used as described: "Flavor is similar to anise, aromatic, after-taste camphory. Used in traditional seasoning for fish, pickles, cucumber and sauerkraut."

 

Sounds like common sweet fennel to me, very camphory. Florence fennel seed is sold for growing these:

 

45a.gif

 

Florence fennel seeds are also twice that expensive, since they're not intended to be used by the handful, but rather to plant a vegetable crop.

 

Edit: T73 is right about the various COs using different type of fennel or none at all, but they're not likely to volunteer the info. Once you taste distilled common sweet fennel next to distilled Florence fennel, you'll never forget the difference. I can see why some have been skeptical about absinthist's fennel, because a lot of azoricum, like T73s, are darker than dulce. But not all. Pics later.

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As good of a guess as I could make.

I'm staring at my fennel and then the photos and it's not clear to me. Damn trick questions or damn photographs...or maybe my eyes. I think I need B)

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Just give me a minute, I printed it out and planted the seeds. The ones that grow into that plant thing are FF.

 

In the large picture the top left and bottom right seeds don't look exactly the same.

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Nope. They don't. They don't taste the same either.

 

But they were harvested at roughly the same time in the growing stage: when the fruit is still fairly green and waxy-looking. That's when the oils are at their maximum. Not what you would want to do if you planned on planting them, but if you were going to use them for flavor...

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Let me venture a guess. And that's all I can do, guess. But the bottom left, very dark pile of smaller seeds I think is the odd man out. Probably the wild fennel. Now the question is how to pair off the immature and mature seed piles. And, and... And every time I try to do that I start second guessing myself. I just don't know what the salient feature(s) are I should be focusing on for definition.

 

But I'm also brought to another problem. Florence fennel is sold for seed to grow a product. Mature seeds, past their prime for oil content. How then is it possible to source immature Florence fennel seeds if this is not what's desirable for their primary commercial purpose?

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Thanks for all the opinions, remarks and hints that will guide me into looking for better ones :cheers: . All in all, FF (even as under that name others are sold which is not fair) is the most difficult one to be purchased.

I have planted the seeds you have all seen (they are growing right now) and will show the results, so you can tell what it is actually.

The company is of Polish origin, it is just the name that has little to do with India. However, their saffron or cinnamon are of exceptional quality among other spices they specialize in.

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Saffron is great! Best to buy that in Indian stores here in the US. As for cooking, FF goes well in absinthe biscoti. It is the most expensive variety but some sweet or Indian fennels, while not as good, can do in a pinch. What I wish was available here is the fennel of Provence that Ted uses. It was also in the L'Artisinale.

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That's where I'm at, too. I can't make any discernible difference between the two browns ones near the top. ("Gramps" Pffft!) There may be a little difference between the two you labeled as SF but I have two varieties of Sweet Fennel in my cupboard that look much more different from each other than those. I'm never seen Wild Fennel so by the process of elimination, the bottom left is my guess. Or it's a red herring tossed in to thwart us.

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What I wish was available here is the fennel of Prevence that Ted uses. It was also in the L'Artisinale.
Fenouil de Provence is just another common name for azoricum.
But I'm also brought to another problem. Florence fennel is sold for seed to grow a product. Mature seeds, past their prime for oil content. How then is it possible to source immature Florence fennel seeds if this is not what's desirable for their primary commercial purpose?
Who said it was possible? ;) But in the old days, seed was obviously harvested for both purposes, so my guess is that it was harvested earlier; still viable for planting, but more flavorful too. Or possible harvested at two different times. I'm not sure about the percentage of viability of earlier-harvest seeds off-hand.

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We didn't grow fennel on the farm but for our crops, we would never harvest seed grain until it had fully matured. Not only would you jeopardize the ability of the grain to sprout but the added moisture would significantly increase the possibility of mold or fungus. Maybe fennel is different?

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I have have some growing and harvested azoricum it at it's prime. It's really almost like a fruit before drying. Unfortuantely growing it in my back yard, I really could only reap a handful or two. One would need several acres to harvest enough to matter. The Provence variety is Azoricum but it is divinely sweet. Where something grows makes a difference (soil conditions . . . ) Spanish Anise is better than turkish anise too for that matter.

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Time's up! I was waiting for a few of the doctors to chime in, but I think they're scared 'cause they know I have somethin' up my sleeve. Besides, I already told Dr. Verte.

 

And the answers are:

 

fennel_tagged.jpg

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OK. Now, are the two versions of the Florence fennel different varieties, different stages of maturation, different in time post harvest (drying)? Better yet, which of the two would make a better bottle of absinthe?

 

I guess I am trying to figure out if the quality correlates with color/shape. Is there an optimal time post harvest for distillation? I've seen some rather wide ranges of time mentioned (more for grand wormwood post harvest than fennel), but how do the various herbs fall in the fresh versus "aged" continuum? As far as utility in distillation goes...

 

I am planning to plant some of these fabled "azoricum" fennels this spring/summer, both to try the bulb and to see the seed on the plant. Some of the sources I've read suggest seed harvest in year two. Clearly, the bulb from plants intended for second year seed harvest must be left in the ground, but I am unclear as to the rest of the plant. Is it cut back and grows out again from the bulb or are we really talking self-reseeding?

 

Finally, any favorite recipes using Florence fennel?

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