Unexpectedly Delicious: Fennel

Fennel is a popular vegetable in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. When consumed raw, this vegetable is crunchy and imparts a slightly sweet licorice-like flavor. If sautéed, roasted, or steamed, the licorice flavor and snappy crunch becomes less pronounced. This plant grows in layers like an onion, but is an obscure bulb shape with awkward stalks of green shooting out of the top. These stalks have little feathery dill-like leaves softly hanging from them. It should not come as a surprise to discover that fennel is genetically related to dill!

Another awesome thing about fennel is that its leaves, bulb and stalks are all edible. In fact, this plant is unique and versatile in that it is a vegetable (the flesh of the bulb), herb (the feathery leaves) and spice (the fennel seed) all in one!

Why should you eat fennel?                        

Fennel has unique plant nutrients that lend strong antioxidant activity. A main one of interest is anethole, a volatile oil in fennel that may help to reduce inflammation and free radical damage, thereby reducing cancer risk. Vitamin C is a compound commonly consumed for its immune supporting properties and ability to neutralize free radical damage. Good thing fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C!                                                                                              

Nutrition value of 1 cup of raw fennel:

  • Greater than 15% of your daily vitamin C
  • 10% of your daily recommended potassium
  • 3 grams of dietary fibre
  • Only 27 calories!

The wonders of how to enjoy it:

Select fennel bulbs that are firm, clean, and have few signs of splitting or spotting. The bulbs should be white or pale green with tight stalks that should not wilt out to the sides too much. It should smell subtly of licorice and is available in supermarkets through autumn all the way to spring.

Slice fennel vertically through the bulb, with the inner tough core removed prior to slicing. The stalks are slightly tough and can be used for soups, stews and stocks. The leaves can be chopped to add fresh flavor to bruschetta, salads or cooked dishes.

Recipe Ideas:

  • Braised Fennel and Salmon
  • Julienned Fennel, Avocado and Orange Salad
  • Roasted Fennel and Carrot Toss
  • Fennel, Apple and Celery Salad
  • Fennel and Tomato Bruschetta
  • Roasted Squash, Fennel and Onions
  • Garlic Chicken Braised with Lemon and Fennel
  • Fennel, Feta Cheese and Tomato Frittata

Did you know that…

In India it is not uncommon to chew on fennel seeds after eating to freshen ones with licorice-y goodness!

May 14, 2015