Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an aromatic herb, with a distinct aniseed flavour. It is part of the Umbellifereae family and is related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. Good quality fennel should be white or light green in colour, with a firm, solid bulb. As well as being great to cook with, it also has quite a few medicinal properties.
Benefits of Fennel
Stomach and Digestion – It soothes digestive troubles by encouraging healthy digestion. Stomach cramps, colic and wind can be eased by fennel. May also be effective against worms and parasites because of the volatile oil (called anethole) which gives it the characteristic aniseed flavour.
Hormone Regulation – It is a gentle hormone regulator. The estrogenic qualities it has, can aid in bringing hormone balance to females. Young mothers to menopausal women can benefit from its mild action.
Water Balance – Its diuretic action, helps to maintain water balance. Fennel may help to relieve water retention and bloating.
Coughs and Colds – The anti-inflammatory oils it contains, can help to ease coughs. It does this by thinning the mucus and making the cough more productive. The range of anti-oxidants it includes, may support recovery from a cold or sooth its symptoms.
How to Use
Cooking – Make a salad – It can be eaten raw in salad, mixed with celery, seasoned with salt and pepper, and finished with a dash of lemon and olive oil. Roast it – Its tender stems can be roasted by slicing the bulb into wedges and placing in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle on olive oil, or dot with butter. Season with salt and pepper, and add a handful of fresh thyme. Bake in the oven until tender. Make a soup – Cook the fennel with potato, asparagus and parsley. Puree, season and serve.
Seeds – The seeds can be used to make a mild tea, which can be cooled (and sweetened with honey). This will help to settle the stomach or ease colic. To make this, boil 1 tsp of fennel seeds in a cup of water for 5 – 10 minutes, and drink as required. Can be strained if needed.
Healing Cough Syrup – To make a cough syrup, either juice the whole plant or steep the seeds in some boiling water for about 10 minutes to make a strong brew. This can be mixed with some lemon and honey if required.