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Fennel Facts and Flavor

Fennel is an attractive plant with a pale bulb and light feathery leaves.

It is a member of the Umbellifereae family, which includes carrots, coriander, parsley, and dill.

All three parts of the fennel plant – bulbs, leaves, and seeds – are edible. It provides fresh produce from fall through spring, a time when many other food plants have stopped producing.

Fennel’s flavor contains hints of anise or licorice, and the texture of its bulb is similar to that of celery, though fennel is slightly sweet.

Fennel is low in calories and high in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and manganese, as well as being a source of many other beneficial nutrients including calcium, magnesium, iron, and health-promoting antioxidants, which means that it may help to protect against heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. Anethole, a phytonutrient found in fennel, has anti-inflammatory effects and may also reduce the risk of cancer.

Fennel is a popular home remedy for a variety of conditions.

It is commonly used (often in tea form) to treat stomach upsets and other digestive disturbances, and for coughs, sore throats, gas, bloating, and many other problems, though more research is required to confirm its benefits for these conditions.

Many people also chew fennel seeds after eating because they act as a natural breath freshener.

Fresh fennel will usually last a few days in the fridge, but it is best eaten as soon as possible after purchase or harvest because it quickly loses its flavor. Fennel seeds can be stored for around six months in airtight containers in dry, cool spaces.

Fennel is a versatile vegetable. It can be sautéed, roasted, grilled, steamed, or even eaten raw. The George Mateljan Foundation (2012) provides a number of suggestions for using fennel, such as sautéing it with onions, adding it to a salad with oranges and avocados, braising it as an accompaniment for scallops or salmon, and adding fennel slices to sandwiches.

Fennel seeds are usually added to breads or other baked goods, but there are also plenty of recipes pairing them with fish, chicken, beef, and vegetable dishes.

Sources
Barrie, L., “Secret Natural Ingredient: Fennel,” Health, n.d.
George Mateljan Foundation, “Fennel,” World’s Healthiest Foods, 2012.
WebMD, “Fennel,” 2012.

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