I’ve really been trying to expand my vegetable repertoire. Not only to keep things FRESH and interesting in the kitchen, but also in our bodies. I love experimenting with vegetables I’ve never had before and discovering new flavors, textures, and health benefits.
My friend Jess recently introduced me to fennel (Thanks, Jess!) and I’m wondering how it is that I’ve gone so long without it! At first I was sort of afraid of it with all it’s wispy little dill-like fronds, but then I remembered how much I love fennel seeds and figured how bad could this baby be Well, I’m a lover, not a hater. This FRESH root veg, which also goes by the name of anise, is great as a snack on its own, roasted in the oven with other root veggies and onions, or tossed in a salad, like the one I whipped up super-fast last night. When eaten raw, it is slightly sweet and crisp with a licorice-like flavor and is perfectly refreshing on a warm night or as a side to a warm main dish. When sauteed, it becomes creamy and a bit sweeter.
Here’s what’s so FRESH about fennel: Overall, it is fantastic for your digestive system. Ever wonder why Indian restaurants offer fennel seeds post-meal? It’s because they facilitate digestion and help keep bad breath away. The essential oils found in fennel get gastric juices going, which reduces inflammation of the stomach and intestines and helps nutrients get properly absorbed. The oils also have anti-acidic (ooh we love that!) properties, which makes it a super choice to help with indigestion, reflux, and (ahem) flatulence. Its extract is even safe for babes experiencing gas or colic (wish I would have known this earlier!) Constipated? Fennel seeds can act as a laxative. Diarrhea? If the cause is bacterial, those essential oils actually also have disinfectant and anti-bacterial properties. With all of its anti-inflammatory traits, fennel is also great when you want to cut mucus (think a common cold or cough), ease menstrual pain, or alleviate bloating (it’s a natural diuretic).
Sheesh, that is some FRESH list...now get choppin’!
Sidebar: How to Chop Fennel
- Slice of a thin layer off the bottom of the bulb.
- Peel the outer, stained layer off.
- Cut off the green stalks and fronds. The stalks may be used to flavor soup stock and the fronds can be used as a garnish.
- Stand the bulb up on its flat end and slice down the middle.
- If eating raw, core the triangle piece on the bottom of both halves (note it in the picture above) as it tends to be tough. If sauteeing or roasting, you can leave the core.
- Cut wedges or slices as you like.
Sidebar Recipe: FRESH Fennel Salad (serves 4)
- 3 Fennel bulbs (mine were on the smallish size), cored and diced
- 3 radishes, sliced thin (great detoxifyer!)
- 2 kale leaves, chopped
- generous handful of grape tomates, halved
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- juice of 1 lemon
- pinch of pink himalayan salt
Combine ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together dressing and massage into salad. This is great when left to marinate overnight, as well.