Apr 302013

FennelNutrition in fennel? –you bet.  But what is this mysterious, bulbous looking thing?  Is it a root, a vegetable, or an herb?  Pretty much all of them, as you can use the whole thing, including the nutritious seeds.  Although the white bulb is usually the part that is eaten, the stalks and fronds are also edible. 

What is Fennel?

Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. In fact, it looks similar to dill.

It’s very firm and crunchy, and it tastes a bit like licorice and anise. It has a fresh, bright taste and is often used raw for salads and slaws.  It’s best to use a mandoline for this.  It can also be  marinated, or grilled or braised until tender.

What is the nutrition in Fennel?

One cup of sliced fennel has 27 calories, is fat and cholesterol free, has 45 grams of sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, and almost 7 grams of fiber.

Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, and molybdenum. In addition, fennel is a good source of niacin, as well as the minerals phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper.

How to Select and Store Fennel

Choose bulbs that are clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting, bruising or spotting. The bulbs should be whitish or pale green in color and the stalks and the leaves should be green in color. There should be no signs of flowering buds as this indicates that the vegetable is past maturity.

Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator crisper, where it should stay fresh for about four days. Yet, it is best to consume fennel soon after purchase since as it ages, it tends to gradually lose its flavor. Dried fennel seeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry location where they will keep for about six months. Storing fennel seeds in the refrigerator will help to keep them fresher longer.

What’s the deal with Fennel seeds?

It’s not unusual in India to see a bowl of fennel seeds on the counter to chew on after meals. This is done to facilitate digestion and to keep bad breath away. Some of the components of the essential oils in fennel are stimulants and stimulate secretion of digestive and gastric juices, reduce inflammation of stomach and intestines and facilitates proper absorption of nutrients from the food. It also has anti acidic (basic) properties and is extensively used in antacid preparations.

The seeds, when made into a tea, have enormous benefits as you will see by clicking on this link.

In a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine,1 it was found that eating the seeds of the plant had a beneficial effect on loss of bone mineral density, as well as bone mineral content.   I am loving everything about fennel around now.

Fennel saladHow can I start using Fennel?

  • Marinate overnight in a vinaigrette for a salad, serve with sliced tomatoes, or mixed into a salad.  Used the sliced fronds to decorate.
  • Grill–Cut the fennel bulb to ½ inch rings, like you would an onion, brush with olive oil and grill over medium heat about 5 minutes on each side until you can see the grill marks.
  • Sauté–Cut in to rings as above and sauté in olive oil with salt, pepper, and herbs of choice until they are golden and tender.
  • Roast—Cut the in to quarters and place in roasting pan.  If you like, you can add vegetables such as carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, or any others for an even greater variety of flavor. Use a basting brush to lightly coat the pieces with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings. Roast for about 45 minutes.
  • Add fennel to grains, pilafs and soups, or try it as a stuffing for poultry or in a sauce for pasta.

And don’t forget to try this weeks recipe for:  Fennel, Orange and Shallot salad or apppetizer.

I encourage you to give fennel a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

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