By: Suzanne Brett, RHN – Victoria, B.C.
Fennel is a very versatile food. It’s often underrated, I believe mostly due to the fact that people don’t know how to enjoy it. Its appearance is overwhelming to some, and is therefore only consumed at restaurants in salads. It’s flavour is like anise, which similar to a mild black liquorice.
Hopefully our June article can change your opinion of this deliciously flavour-packed nutrient dense food.
Fennel pleasures us with its company early spring to summer depending on your specific region and its climate. Its scent is mild, but aromatic enough to get our digestive juices flowing. It is a member of the Umbellifereae family making its cousins, dill, parsley, carrot and coriander.
I consider fennel to be an amazing food, full of all the good stuff. It’s chalk full of many healing and health promoting properties. Known for its antiseptic and anti-microbial properties, which help to calm inflammation or irritation in the digestive tract and can be helpful in relieving stomach upset, colic, heartburn and IBS. It’s always a good idea to munch on some fennel leaves if you’re feeling nauseous. Or have some fennel tea, if you’re suffering from indigestion.
Fennel has a high Potassium content making it great for decreasing blood pressure, supporting heart conditions and balancing electrolytes. Its high Vitamin A (Beta-carotene) content helps the protection of our tissues and is considered a beautifier. Eat fennel for your skin, mucous membranes, bones, teeth, eyes, hair and nails and also to help the production of T-cell antibodies that fight off infection and promote a healthy immune system. In fact, fennel is also quite high in Vitamin C, so if you’re feeling a little run down, grab some fennel and chomp it up! The list goes on really, fennel contains many health supporting vitamins and minerals.
How to eat fennel:
It’s really quite easy, the root (white part at the bottom) is most often what’s used in pickling or shaved on top of salads, which is a great simple way to introduce this into your diet. I am personally a fan of using the whole thing. You can eat the root, fronds (stems), leaves and seeds. It’s seeds and leaves are most often used medicinally in teas and in Indian cooking. Fennel is my ultimate favourite when steamed in broth with a few other root veggies. Here’s my favourite easy way to receive all the healthy benefits of this phenomenal food:
Poached Fennel With Rainbow Carrots and Bok Choi
- 1 medium fennel, washed, leaves and fronds removed and placed to the side
- 1 bunch small rainbow carrots (rainbow only to beautify the plate), washed and with the tops still on
- 6 baby bok choi, washed
- 3-4 shallots, peeled
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tsp caper berries
- 3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
- ½ bottle of dry white wine or ½ cup apple cider vinegar and 2 TBSP butter
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Chop fronds (stems), in 1” pieces
- Slice fennel bulb in half lengthwise, make 2 angled cuts to remove the core and slice halves in thirds (depending on the size, you’ll want to keep these fairly intact).
- Slice shallots lengthwise, either halves or thirds depending on the size.
- Crush garlic, or slice in halves.
- Heat a large saucepan or poaching pot on medium high heat.
- Add broth and wine or vinegar and butter and bay leaf.
- Once the liquid has begun lightly bubbling turn down to medium and add fennel fronds and bulb, carrots shallots and garlic.
- Simmer covered for about 7-10 minutes.
- Add bok choi, capers and lemon juice.
- Simmer another 5 minutes or until all vegetables are cooked yet still crunchy.
- Remove from heat, drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice and cracked black pepper. Garnish with fennel leaves as desired and enjoy!
Note: I like to serve my poached fennel with wild rice. I sometimes add a fish to the poaching liquid and cook the vegetables around it. Play around.