In years past I was someone who avoided any "weird looking", unidentifiable vegetables in the grocery store...I rarely ventured outside my comfort zone of spinach, romaine, potatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli, green beans, and asparagus and never touched vegetables like fennel. To me, fennel looked like an onion, celery, and dill all mixed together and I had no idea how to cut it, prepare it, or what it would taste good paired with. Over the last few years, I've learned about how to cook with it and I have to say I really fell in love with this weird little vegetable not only for its ability to bring a unique flavor to dishes, but also because it boasts some amazing health benefits.
So...this week's What's That?! Wednesday post has been dedicted to the Health Benefits of Fennel and how to incorporate it into your diet. It will hopefully get you more familiar with fennel and/or brave enough to try it out if you have not already incorporated into you diet.
Health Benefits of Fennel:
This crunchy and slightly sweet vegetable gets it origins from the ancient Roman and Greek empires who used it regularly for medicinal remedies. It is still highly used in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines and is now grown in several countries, including the U.S. It has three parts, each with its own unique nutritional benefits: the crunchy, bulbous, pale green root; feathery fronds that look like those of dill; and seeds inside the butter-yellow blossoms of the mature plant.
While fennel boasts several health benefits, here are a few that stand out for me:
How to Cut it:
If I've convinced you to try it, then the next step is how to cut it. Martha Stewart is my "go-to" when it comes to understanding how to cut and prepare fruits and vegetables that I'm not familiar with. Here is her short video on How to Cut a Fennel. Watch it once or twice and you will be a pro in no time. I like to use either a chef knife or mandolin to get the fennel thinly sliced. FYI -You can use the 'dilly like" fronds to garnish a dish or mince up and toss into a salad. FYI - Fennel is in season in late fall through late Spring.
How to Cook & Prepare it:
It is in the same family as parsley, dill, coriander, and carrots and is know for having a "black licorice" taste when eaten plain and raw - which I hate! But a little culinary secret is that when it is roasted, sauteed, or marinated in citrus juice a whole new array of lovely flavors emerge with no sign of the black licorice taste at all. I promise!
Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook veggies so I decided to incorporate some roasted fennel in our Spring Pea Salad with Roasted Fennel & Grilled Chicken. Or if you are a vegetarian or vegan, try our Spring Pea Salad with Roasted Fennel & Chickpeas. These recipes are a great way to be introduced to this vegetable and even won over my husband.
I like to eat a simple raw fennel salad of fennel and celery, both thinly sliced with some freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some fresh dill. Just remember to pair your fennel salads with a citrusy vinaigrette. For a more savory dish, fennel is excellent baked in 'scalloped potato' type recipe with some white sweet potatoes -YUM! Add other casserole ingredients to your liking and some orange zest and a splash of orange juice before baking it as well to help round out the flavor profile.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy fennel? We'd love to hear your comments below.
In good health,
Billie & Jen
Billie Shellist, FDN-P
I practice functional nutrition, an approach that allows me to look at your entire health history and help you find the "root causes" of your chronic health complaints.
This cuts out the trial and error process and helps you get real symptom relief and resolution!
Food is medicine and knowledge is power -I hope you enjoy my anti-inflammatory recipes which are gluten, dairy, and soy free as well as very low grain and sugar.
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