Fennel has been around for thousands of years.
The name “fennel” comes from the Latin word meaning “finely chopped.”
This plant was used as a spice and to aid digestion in ancient Greece, Rome, and Europe.
Fennel is also known as finocchio (Italian) or fenekal (Greek).
In both of these languages, it means “finish.”
What is fennel?
This aromatic herb has a long history in food preparation.
For centuries, fennel seeds have been used as a digestive aid and to help curb appetite.
Some cultures even believe that eating this plant will keep your skin clear and beautiful.
The bulbous base of the fennel plant contains tiny brown seeds that give this flower a crunchy, nutty texture when eaten raw.
If you cut off the stalks, however, you will find that the fennel bulbs are quite soft and easy to eat.
These stalks are also edible.
What does fennel taste like?
Many people think of fennel as having a mild licorice flavor.
But there are many different types of fennel plants, some with sweeter flavors than others.
You may find fennel seeds used fresh in salads, cooked in soups, or dried and ground into powder.
Some people prefer to buy fennel tea rather than drink the seeds themselves.
Fresh fennel tastes slightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.
People who are sensitive to spices might find that fennel seed gives their food a more noticeable flavor.
What are the health benefits of fennel?
Fennel is one of the oldest herbs known to have medicinal properties.
According to the National Institutes of Health, fennel helps treat stomach ailments such as gastritis and indigestion by reducing acid production in the stomach.
It also relieves symptoms of gas and bloating, which makes it great for digestion and flatulence.
Some studies have shown that fennel seeds can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Eating fennel is also believed to help prevent diabetes because it helps reduce glucose absorption.
However, the jury is still out on whether fennel actually prevents diabetes.
How do you cook fennel?
You can cook with fennel just like any other vegetable.
To prepare fennel, wash it thoroughly under running water and remove the tough outer layer.
Slice it up and add it to any kind of soup.
You can also steam it whole, slice it thinly, and sauté it in olive oil with garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of lemon juice.
What dishes can you make with fennel?
Fennel bulbs are delicious sliced and served with cheese or fish.
They go well with chicken and pork, too.
Fennel bulbs can be added to soups with pasta or rice.
You can even bake them along with potatoes and onions for a nice side dish.
If you buy fennel flowers, they are delicious dipped in batter and fried until crisp.
You can also fry the seeds separately and serve them as a snack.
Where does fennel come from?
Fennel is native to northern Africa, southern Europe, western Asia, and India.
It is thought to originate in Egypt, but records indicate that “finocchio” is mentioned in ancient Greek texts dating back to 6th century B.C.E.
Fennel is now grown worldwide, including in China, Japan, and the United States.
What is the history of fennel?
People have been using fennel as a culinary spice for thousands of years.
Ancient Egyptians ate fennel seeds in bread and as a breath freshener.
Fennel was also a popular ingredient in Roman cooking.
It was eaten fresh or dried and used for flavoring wine, cakes, and stews.
During the Middle Ages, fennel became popular in European cooking and was included in many recipes.
Today, the herb is still widely used.
How do you grow fennel?
Fennel plants need full sun and moderate temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Planting seeds early in spring is best, but they can be planted anytime during the growing season.
Keep fennel healthy by watering regularly and fertilizing once a month.
Prune fennel regularly to encourage growth.
What is the nutritional value of fennel?
Fennel is rich in fiber and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium.
One medium-sized bulb of fennel provides about 20 percent of our daily vitamin C needs.
It also contains vitamins A, B1, B6, E, K, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, and thiamine.
Fennel is low in fat, calories, sodium, and carbohydrates.
How can you use fennel in natural medicine?
Fennel is useful in herbal medicine because of its ability to increase bowel movement, relieve bloating, and help alleviate nausea.
Fennel stimulates peristalsis, which moves food through the intestines.
Peristalsis is what causes diarrhea, so if you have diarrhea, you should try eating fennel to see if it improves your condition.
You can also take fennel tea to relieve nausea, although it is generally not recommended to take fennel orally unless directed to do so by a doctor.
Fennel can also be helpful when taking medications.
It is safe to take fennel with most types of prescription drugs, according to WebMD.com.
Fennel is considered to have little to no effect on blood thinners, antihistamines, or antidepressants.
Fennel is also said to protect against cancer.
Because it contains high amounts of antioxidants, fennel may protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and toxins in the body.
Studies conducted at Harvard University suggest that fennel could help prevent esophageal cancer.
In addition to regular consumption of fennel, scientists recommend eating foods high in antioxidants, such as berries and nuts.
Although fennel is a common kitchen herb, it is very rare to find it in grocery stores.
Fortunately, fennel is available online or from specialty shops.