Fennel: Seeds, Leaves, and Bulb
Fennel is called by various names, "fenkel", "sweet fennel", and "wild fennel". Its scientific name is Foeniculum vulgare. Its seeds, roots and leaves can all be used in food or manufacturing. It is a perennial plant that comes back year after year in most climates, if properly treated. It is umbelliferous, which means it has the distinctive cluster of flower heads that vaguely resembles an umbrella. Fennel is generally aromatic and is related to the carrot and parsley family of plants. There is some debate over whether it should be classified as an herb or a vegetable.
The history of the use of fennel goes back to ancient times. The herb, like many other aromatic plants, is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean basin. Besides being eaten it was also used as a medicine by the ancients.1 Fennel stalks may have been used as a wand by some devotees of Dionysus.
Like many other herbs, the medicinal properties and health benefits of fennel are in some dispute. It has been used in concoctions to cure baby's "gripe". A syrup concoction from fennel has been used to suppress coughs. Fennel Tea is said to relieve gas. It also has a remarkable essential oil that may have anti-cancer properties.
It grows wild in many places, usually near rocky shores and on riverbanks. Yet fennel is most often grown in the garden. It likes soils rich in limestone and chalk. It can be treated very similar to parsley.
Fennel is used in many recipes. Because all of the plant can be eaten, it appears in various forms. Generally it has a mild, sweet taste that is most often described as licorice (though typically anise is used to make this flavor). The seeds can be found in cookies and breads. Its leaves can be used in salads. The bulb can be lightly sauteed and eaten with roasted meats2. It is also used in the manufacture of absinthe.
History of Fennel >>
- Botanical.com on Fennel
- Sally's Place on Fennel