Fennel – Foeniculum Vulgare
Fennel is a well-known cooking and medicinal herb. It is a hardy perennial native to the Mediterranean countries.
Today it grows in most parts of the world.
The plant has hollow stems growing from the base and feathery leaves. It can grow to be about 2 meters (6 feet) tall.
The plant has small yellow flowers which are followed by aromatic seeds.
Cooking With Fennel
The whole fennel plant is edible. It is especially good with white fish and pork. It is also used in pasta dishes.
The bulb can be eaten raw in salads. When choosing a bulb make sure it is hard and white. Rinse the bulb before using.
Cut off the hard part in the middle and discard it. The hard middle part does not taste very good. You only want to use the white part of the fennel bulb.
Slice the rest and add it to your salad.
You may want to add some lemon juice because raw fennel will discolor quickly after it is sliced.
Raw fennel has a liquorish taste.
The bulb is great for cooking. The cooked bulb is sweeter than the raw fennel. The sharp taste of the raw fennel is less distinctive.
Cut the bulb into slices. Remember to remove the hard area in the middle. Fry in a pan with some olive oil.
The bulb can also be used in soups or baked. Try some great fennel recipes.
The leaves (fronds) which have a nice feathery look are wonderful to use as garnish. The leaves are also used in egg dishes or mixed with vegetables.
The seeds are green or brown when they are fresh. They turn grey over time. The seeds are used in sauces, meatballs, pickles, cakes and bread.
Fennel Health Benefits
Eating fennel bulbs will help to lower your cholesterol.
Tea made from the seeds is often used during fasts because it reduces hunger.
This tea is good to drink for anybody who is trying to lose weight for the same reason.
Crush the seeds slightly first if you plan to make tea from fennel seeds.
It has a calming effect on the digestive system.
The tea is believed to increase the milk flow in mothers who are breastfeeding. It is also used to treat colic in babies, either by giving the baby a few teaspoons of the tea or through the milk of the mother.
In India it has been used as a remedy to improve eyesight.
Many in India use the seeds as breath fresheners after a meal.
Fennel has been used to treat coughing throughout the ages.
It is also a natural flea repellent. Fresh fronds (leaves) are crushed and used for this purpose. Try placing the fronds under the bedding of your pet and see if it helps keep the fleas out of there.
As always consult your doctor if you have any concerns. Pregnant women should not use fennel medicinally.
Fennel in Folklore, Mythology and History
Since Ancient times fennel has been a symbol of courage. Roman gladiators were known to eat the seeds to give them that extra boost of courage before entering the arena.
During the Middle Ages in Europe fennel was used to keep the ghosts from entering the home on Midsummer night’s eve.
A fennel bulb would be placed outside the house and a few seeds in the keyhole were believed to give the home the much needed protection against the evil spirits lurking about.
Fennel as part of a flower bouquet was a symbol the receiver of the bouquet was worthy of praise.
In Greek mythology it was sacred to the fire-making god named Prometheus. It was told he brought the fire from the heaven in a hollow fennel stalk and gave it as a gift to the humans.
Charlemagne sure showed appreciation for the plant when he in 812 ordered all monasteries and all farms throughout his empire to grow fennel.
In Ancient Greece fennel was called marathon. Marathon was also the name of the place where the Greeks won a battle in 490 BCE.
A young runner named Pheidippides ran the 42 km back to Athens to inform of the victory.
He collapsed and died upon arriving. Marathon obviously received its name because of the abundance of fennel growing in those fields.