The other night a friend mentioned they were craving something with fennel and I thought, “Really?! There’s a craving I’ve never had.” But it got the old gears turning and led me to realize I hadn’t really used it in anything.
Fennel has that slight licorice scent and it’s seed is often confused with that of anise, but I hadn’t really experimented with adding it to different things. Truthfully, I don’t like black licorice or anything that is very similar in taste usually. This was probably the reason I had stayed away from using fennel before. Boy was I pleasantly surprised!
The first thing you should know is that the “licorice” flavor is not strong, and when cooked it’s nearly undetectable. You expect it, but it’s not there. I’m not even actually sure how to describe the cooked flavor. What I do like about fennel is the fact that you can use the entire thing-bulb, stalks and leaves. I happened to lightly saute it with some already cooked chicken chunks and served it over seasoned lentils. (A recipe I will surely make again.) We all found this incredibly enjoyable and I can not wait to use fennel in other things and have it again.
Some time ago I had someone give me a bottle of fennel supplements. I believe it curtly mentions on the bottle that fennel is to be used for digestion and bad breath. The truth is that fennel is good for helping treat a myriad of “digestive” issues. It will help in everything from indigestion to constipation to flatulence, diarrhea to colic. It aids in rheumatoid arthritis, Irritable Bowels Syndrome, low libido, hypertension and sinus congestion. But more interestingly is it’s use for anemia, respiratory disorders, hormonal imbalances and eye care. It has known effects as a mild diuretic which leads to helping detox the body, increasing lactation in mothers and increases hair strength while reducing hair fall, sharpening memory and relaxing the body.
Fennel is a high source of anti-oxidants and Vitamin C. It is also a high source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese and magnesium. These minerals and vitamins can be gained in the many forms of fennel. As I mentioned before, the entire plant is edible. Nutrients can be ingested by chewing on seeds, making a tea, putting the plume-ish leaves on a sandwich, or lightly cooking any part of it. You can also find fennel oil.
Make this new year about exploring new things, new experiences, new foods, new thoughts. Someone’s simple comment could spark a whole new interest and an unexpected joy.