You’ve probably heard of fennel, but are you aware of its uses or health benefits? Fennel is one of Italy’s most popular vegetables and is available at most local grocery stores year-round or at farmers’ markets when in season (during chillier months). When purchasing, look for small, heavy, white bulbs that are firm and free of cracks, browning, or moist areas. The stalks should be crisp like celery with feathery, bright green leaves.
Like celery, the entire fennel plant is edible and will add raw texture and flavor to salads and slaws. Fennel can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. This mild licorice-flavored plant is a member of the parsley family. If you have never tried fennel, raw it has a mild licorice flavor that disappears when cooked. Roasted or sautéed, it conveys a light, bright, spring-like quality to foods.
Some tips on using fennel:
- Wrapped in plastic and stored in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator, fennel keeps for 3-4 days; the flavor fades as it dries out.
- To slice the bulb, stand it on the root end and cut vertically with a sharp knife or mandolin.
- Thinly sliced raw fennel bulb adds a sweet flavor and crunchy texture to salads or slaws.
- To lighten the bulb’s flavor, try grilling, braising, sautéing, or roasting it.
- Fennel fronds can be used as a garnish or chopped and used as you would other herbs, like dill or parsley.
- Replace celery in soups and stews with fennel stalks or use the stalks as a “bed” for roasted chicken and other meats.
- Try fennel with seafood for a delicious change to your routine.
Lastly, we can’t ignore the health benefits of fennel. Adding it to your diet may improve heart health, reduce inflammation, suppress appetite, and even provide anticancer effects. Just one cup of fennel contains almost 20% of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. You’ll also find plenty of iron, fiber, calcium, vitamin A, and potassium.
Let’s look closer:
- Both fennel and its seeds are low in calories but provide essential nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. These nutrients are vital for immune health, tissue repair, metabolism, bone development, blood sugar regulation, wound healing, and collagen synthesis.
- All parts of the fennel plant are rich in antioxidants which have powerful effects on your health, such as a lower risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, obesity, cancer, neurological diseases, and type 2 diabetes.
- Diets that are high in fiber have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Fennel and its seeds are packed with fiber, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
- Although eating fennel and its seeds has plenty of health benefits, consuming higher doses in supplement form may react with certain medications and may be unsafe for pregnant women. Always consult your doctor if mixing a supplement with prescription medication.
To benefit from fennel and its seeds, try including raw fennel bulb in your salads or using the seeds to flavor soups, stews, broths, and fish dishes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Use it raw in a salad by mixing arugula, shaved fennel, shaved red onion, and orange segments. Serve with or without an approved vinaigrette of your choice.
Try braised fennel by spritzing it with olive or coconut oil spray, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400°F until tender, about 20 – 30 minutes.
Roast fennel alone or with cauliflower, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree the mixture for a creamy soup base, or serve it as a dip with your favorite veggies.
Check out our recipe for Fennel Dill Vinaigrette.
10 Benefits of Fennel and Fennel Seeds, Based on Science
Fennel and How to Use It
What is Fennel – and What Can I Do With It?
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