You've seen it before, in the supermarket or the farmers' market -- it's white, bulbous with green stems and has frilly dill-like fronds. It's fennel! Many people aren't that familiar with it, because it just looks so alien. But fennel is actually a wonderful vegetable with a sweet, anise or licorice flavor that's strongest when it's raw but much more mellow when it's cooked.

Most fennel recipes call for just the white bulb, which is typically cored and sliced or chopped, depending on the preparation. When thinly sliced, the fennel bulb is great in salads -- it's crunchy and slightly sweet and subtly licorice-like, but not as pungent as licorice root or black licorice candy.

But don't toss the stalks and fronds. The stalks can be used to make stock, or chopped and sauteed with other vegetables in a mirepoix (a typical French blend of onion, celery and carrot) for a soup or stew. The fronds can be added to salads or chopped and used to garnish dishes.

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