Looking for something to liven up your meals? Try fennel!
This crisp, licorice-flavored herb is native to the Mediterranean, so naturally it goes well with a healthy Mediterranean diet.
In addition to being very high in fiber, fennel is loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals.
It supports heart health as well as providing relief from indigestion, anemia, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, and menstrual disorders.
Fennel bulbs also contain a phytonutrient called anethole, which reduces inflammation and may help prevent cancer. (Note: Women with breast cancer should not use fennel because of its estrogenic properties.)
Related to dill, carrots, parsley, and coriander (cilantro), fennel is popular in Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Fennel bulbs can be thinly shaved and added raw to salads for a delicate, exotic twist, or they can be roasted, lightly sautéed, or used in recipes in other ways.
Thanks to its health benefits and flavor, fennel bulbs and stalks are also excellent for juicing. In fact, one of my favorite juice combos is fennel / apple / ginger.
In addition to the bulb, the seeds are widely used as well. Best if they are ground, toasted, or dry-fried, fennel seeds add a warm, aromatic flavor to Italian sausage, fish stock, chai tea, and many other dishes.
Even the pollen from fennel’s yellow flowers can be used — this delicate anise-scented powder is known in fancy chef circles as “fairy dust”! In fact, there are lots of articles on fine cooking blogs about cooking with fennel pollen. Who knew, right?
You can buy fennel pollen online, or gather it from fennel you grow yourself. Luckily this hardy plant grows just about anywhere.
And speaking of fairy dust! I like to think of my Micronized Purple Rice powder as a kind of fairy dust as well. It’s not magical, of course, and not a miracle (I always tell people this is a process, not a miracle), but I just love the fact that it’s purple and it improves your health.
Fennel has lots of health benefits, too. Here are three ways it can be beneficial:
1. Lactation tea
We all know how important breastfeeding is for the health of newborns. But for new mothers, “bringing in the milk” can be difficult. Fennel helps with that! It is a “galactagogue,” or substance that increases milk production.
Be sure to check with a physician before using fennel teas, though, to make sure there are no interactions with any medications you may be taking.
Look online for lactation tea blends or recipes to make your own. In addition to fennel, lactation teas may include things like fenugreek, lemon verbena, spearmint, and other herbals.
2. Weight loss
Fennel seeds in water make an excellent tonic that helps with weight loss. Start by putting two tablespoons of whole raw fennel seeds in one quart of water. Let soak overnight, and then drink throughout the day.
Infusing with cool water rather than steeping with hot water preserves the nutrients.
Fennel water helps with weight loss by increasing metabolism, decreasing appetite, purifying the blood, detoxifying the body, acting as a mild diuretic (flushing excess water from the body), reducing hunger pangs, and stimulating melatonin, which in turn helps with sleep, thereby aiding weight loss.
Note: Pregnant women should not drink fennel water. Also, as with any herbal remedy, check with your practitioner before using.
As I mentioned earlier, fennel is excellent as part of a juicing regimen. The bulb is where most of the nutrients are, but you can use the stalks as well.
Fennel adds a slightly sweet flavor, similar to anise or licorice. It goes well with a lot of different vegetable and fruit juices but especially adds pizzazz to juices that are otherwise bland or earthy.
Some fruit and veggie juices that go well with fennel juice are carrot, apple, parsley, celery, beet, ginger, and lemon.
To juice fennel bulb, just cut it into strips that will fit into your juicer.