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©2011 Shanna Lea (formerly Shanna Ohmes)
Cooking with fennel adds many health benefits to your recipes as well as being delicious too. Fennel has been used as a digestive aid by many cultures and to boost the immune system.
In medieval times, monks used fennel and received great praise for their meals. The Puritans of New England chewed the fennel seeds as an appetite suppressant during service and called them “meeting seeds”. From the time of the Pharaohs to today, fennel has been used a digestive aid in many recipes.
It has also been used by Ayurvedic physicians of ancient India, the Greeks, Romans and the world over to promote menstruation, promote breast milk, to ease diarrhea, indigestion, to treat colds, and was used as an eyewash.
An interesting story is told about the Roman naturalist Pliny. He reported that soon after snakes shed their skins, they rubbed up against fennel plants (or in other reports, the snakes ate the fennel) and not long after, their glazed eyes cleared up. Pliny claimed fennel could cure eye problems and blindness in humans.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of fennel:
“Above the lower plants it towers
The Fennel with its yellow flowers;
And in an earlier age than ours
Was gifted with wondrous powers
Lost vision to restore”
Fennel is in the Umbelliferae family that includes parsley, carrot, dill, celery and angelica. All parts of the plant are used for food—the seeds (fruit), stalks, leaves and bulbs.
Fennel is rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium, manganese and folate. It also has phytochemicals, such as anethole, shown to be effective for inflammation, cancer and digestive problems.
How to Cook with Fennel– 7 Recipes
Baked Garlic and Fennel
2 fennel bulbs
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Trim the tops from the fennel bulbs and peel tough outer skin. Cut the fennel bulbs in ¼ inch slices and lay them on an oiled baking pan (11 x 9 inch pan). Pour the broth in the pan and top each fennel slice with 1 teaspoon of the minced garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover pan with aluminum. Bake 45-50 minutes at 375°F. Fennel is done when a fork pierces through the slices without resistance.
Combine the Parmesan, breadcrumbs and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the fennel; bake uncovered, 10-15 minutes more, until the breadcrumbs are just browned. Serve with the pan juices.
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin ¼”
2 + 2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic (chopped, allow to sit 5 minutes)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the 2 tablespoons of broth in a skillet over medium heat until it steams, then add the fennel. Cover and sauté for 4 minutes.
Remove cover, and add the other 2 tablespoons broth and cook 3 minutes, uncovered. Toss with the Mediterranean Dressing and serve.
More Recipes for Sautéed Fennel:
- Top with walnuts, kalamata olives or Parmesan cheese
- Fennel Mashed Potatoes: Mash the Sautéed Fennel in with 2 steamed potatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh dill and salt and pepper.
- Fish with Sautéed Fennel and Carrots: Combine the Sautéed fennel in with your favorite fish—tuna, salmon, or cod. Also add to cooked cauliflower and carrots.
Beet Fennel Salad
Toss fresh fennel slices with steamed beets. Make a dressing of equal parts olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Season with sea salt and pepper.
Apple Fennel Salad
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss in 1 medium apple, sliced very thin and 1 fennel bulb, sliced thin. Include the leaves. Coat well in the dressing.