Used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, Fennel (foeniculum vulgare) improves digestion and supports detox, among many other health benefits. Many varieties of wild fennel are cultivated today, the most widely used form is Sweet Fennel, a favorite flavoring in Mediterranean foods. Raw or cooked, appetizers to entrees, fennel’s aromatic flavor makes it a wonderful addition to all types of cuisine.
You’ll recognize fennel by its pale green bulb and sturdy stalks, topped by a spray of soft, feathery green leaves. From bulb to leaf to seed, all parts of fennel are edible. The plant contains antioxidants and a unique compound called anethole, which has been shown to reduce inflammation. Fennel also contains vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system. The Vitamin C found in the bulb has antimicrobial properties, as well. A cup of raw sliced fennel provides fiber, potassium, and other nutrients.
Autumn and early spring are the best times for buying fennel. Look for bulbs that are clean and firm, free from spots and brittle strips. Both stalks and leaves should have a vibrant green color. Flowering buds indicate that the fennel is past maturity. Fresh fennel should be fragrant, with an aroma akin to licorice. When possible, choose organic produce. To preserve the vitamin content, keep fresh fennel in the crisper in your fridge for up to four days. It’s a good practice to store fennel seeds in the fridge, too.
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Curtis, S. “Fennel” as cited in Essential Oils. (2014) Winter Press, London: UK. MedicinalPlants.com “Fennel” (2014)
Shamkant B., Vainav V. Patel, and Atmaram H. Bandivdekar. “ Foeniculum Vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology.” BioMed Research International (Aug 2014) doi:10.1155/2014/842674. (full text)