What is Fennel? What are Fennel Seeds? How To Cook With Fennel? All You Need To Know Explained
Fennel is popular around the world, but also relatively unknown. It starts as a flowering plant related to carrots which flowers are easily recognizable; they’re small and bright yellow.
Fennel has been used in the kitchen and traditional medicine for centuries, particularly around the Mediterranean Basin, but it’s now famous worldwide.
Often misunderstood, you can eat fennel’s bulb, but you can also use its leaves and aromatic seeds. Delicious and super nutritious, today you’ll learn what is fennel used in, and how to use fennel in cooking. Let’s have a closer look.
Fennel Through History
Although fennel has been around for thousands of years, the first time it was recorded was in Ancient Egypt, 3,500 years ago, in what appears to be a papyrus with health treatments.
The Ancient Greeks also mentioned fennel around 700BC in the Prometheus mythological story. The hero used a hollowed fennel stack to retrieve fire from the gods. For the Greeks, fennel was a source of knowledge.
The medieval ruler Charlemagne promoted fennel plantings across his vast empire; it was easy to grow, nutritious, and had yet-unexplained medicinal properties.
How to Cook With Fennel Bulbs?
Let’s start with the bulb because it might very well be the most versatile part of fennel.
Think of a celery or onion texture with aromatics reminiscent of anise. You can chop it and enjoy it raw as part of a salad, but when cooked, fennel bulbs caramelize and become a beautiful side dish for any meal. Sautée the bulbs drizzled with olive oil or grill them for your new favorite veggie. You can bake fennel bulbs, too, for a tender, caramelized treat — the best way of eating your greens right here.
How to Cook With Fennel Leaves?
Fennel leaves or fronds look very much as dill, although they have a completely different taste profile.
Cooking with fennel fronds is easier than you think. Chop the fronds thinly and sprinkle them on stews, soups and broths for a uniquely Mediterranean feel.
Add the fronds to salads directly or to a vinaigrette-based dressing. You can also add fennel leaves to pesto for an enticing touch or add them to curries.
When it comes to fennel leaves, fresh is always better, and you get them for free when you buy fennel bulbs!
How To Cook With Fennel Seeds?
Fennel seeds are small and have a pod-like shape. To enjoy them, you must first roast them briefly and ground them into a fine powder. Luckily, Fennel seed powder is widely available.
Fennel seed’s flavor reminds you of anise and licorice, which makes it a fantastic addition to grilled fish, stews, rice, or even pasta.
Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines use fennel seeds widely, and you might not see them, but you can definitely taste them.
The seeds are part of the famous Indian garam masala spice blend, for example, it’s one of the 5 Chinese 5-spice powder, and they give flavor to Italian sausages.
What Are The Health Benefits of Fennel?
Both fennel bulbs and seeds are incredibly healthy; they’re superfoods in their own right. They’re packed with fiber, vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and potassium.
As part of a balanced diet, fennel can fulfill your daily dietary needs for essential minerals with ease.
Fennel seeds are also a reliable source for antioxidants and bio-active compounds that appear to have anti-inflammatory properties.
A daily cup of fennel seed tea could help you suppress your appetite, helping you achieve your weight goals.
Finally, some fennel compounds have estrogenic properties, which might aid hormonal imbalance caused by menopause in women.
Health Risk of Consuming Fennel
Although eating fennel bulbs, fronds or seeds presents little to no health risks, some concentrated sources in nutritional supplements and fennel extract has proven to have potential downsides.
Hormonal changes caused by fennel extract could cause unnecessary risks with pregnant women and could be toxic to developing embryos.
Avoid fennel concentrates and essential oils if you’re in hormonal treatments and talk to your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
Make Fennel Part Of Your Life
Now that you know how to cook with fennel, and why it’s good for you, there’s no excuse for not adding it to your diet. Fennel bulbs, fronds or seeds, you don’t have to choose, there are fewer agricultural products as versatile as the aromatic fennel.
Fennel Nutritional Facts
According to the USDA, one cup (87 grams) of raw fennel bulb adds 27 calories and 3 grams of fiber, while a tablespoon of dried fennel seeds adds 20 calories and 2 grams of fiber.
Fennel bulbs contribute to your recommended daily intake as follows:
- Vitamin C 12%
- Calcium 3%
- Iron 4%
- Magnesium 4%
- Potassium 8%
- Manganese 7%
Fennel seeds contribute to your recommended daily intake as follows:
- Vitamin C 1%
- Calcium 5%
- Iron 6%
- Magnesium 5%
- Potassium 2%
- Manganese 17%
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