Focus On Fennel
Saje In-House Natural Food Specialist Anna talks about the benefits of fennel in all its forms.
We’re all about connecting people with the healing power of plants: like fennel! With a texture like celery and a shape like an onion, fennel is a versatile and uniquely flavoured vegetable that also produces seeds for spices.
Here at Saje, we blend fennel essential oil in our Gutzy® Soothing Belly Massage Blend for its ability to calm tummy digestive troubles. Layer on your fennel experience by using this remedy when your eyes have proven to be bigger than your stomach.
In our Saje kitchens, we use fennel in all kinds of ways that you can try at home. Read on for tips and tricks of introducing this beautiful - and versatile - plant powerhouse to your meals.
What is fennel?
Indigenous to the Mediterranean, fennel is in the same plant family as parsley and is now found all over the world, especially in dry, coastal areas.
This beautiful plant grows as a firm white bulb with overlapping layers, topped with bright green, hollow stems and feathery leaves. In the springtime, the top is covered with yellow flowers which contain tiny, dusky green and aromatic seeds. It’s also no slouch in the nutrition department. Low in calories, the bulb is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and phytoestrogens.
Fennel is a true plant powerhouse: every single part can be eaten in many different ways. From a side dish to a spice to a seed to an oil, fennel’s slightly licorice flavour will add flair to your fall cooking, no matter which way you slice, sprinkle or pour it.
What does it taste like?
The tiny seeds are rich with a unique phytonutrient: anethole, which is also what contributes to their recognizable flavour. If you’ve ever tasted star anise or licorice, you know what to expect when eating fennel in any form. Although the flavour is similar, they are usually used in different kinds of recipes. Star anise and licorice can be found in candies, hot drinks and the occasional savory dish, whereas fennel is generally reserved for soups, stews and curries.
How can I use it?
Keep it fresh
The fronds can be used in salads, but the main attraction of fennel is the bulb itself. It's very firm and crunchy, with a fresh, bright taste, perfect for salads and slaws. Try slicing the white bulb very thin (with a mandoline is best) and tossing with your favourite dressing.
The perfect accompaniment to your next fall meal, roasted fennel is right at home with other seasonal choices like yams, potatoes, and dark, leafy greens. The crisp, green flavour mellows into a slightly sweet, fresh taste that can elevate your next plant-based meal experience.
Try trimming the top off a fennel bulb and cutting it into ½ inch wedges. Remove as much of the white core as possible, while leaving the ribs connected. Coat with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast at 400 °F for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden.
Use the seeds
Used in many cultural cuisines for thousands of years, fennel seeds add a fresh, anise-like flavour to your meals. Many Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern cooking styles take advantage of the complex flavour of fennel. Before using them in a recipe, toast them for a minute or two in a cast-iron pan to help release the aromatic oil, then crack or grind them to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle.
Particularly in South Asia, the seeds are often brewed into a post-meal tea, because fennel is believed to support good digestion by relieving troubles like gas and bloating. Crush a teaspoon of seeds in a mortar and pestle for every cup of hot water. Transfer the crushed seeds to a tea ball, then pour boiling water over, leaving to steep for at least seven minutes.
We love celebrating nature in all its forms, and fennel is no exception. No matter how you use fennel, choosing plant-based ingredients means you’re doing your body good. The next time you’re in a meal-planning slump, look for fennel in the produce and spice sections and add some flair your fall meals!