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All about “Fennel”, vegetable rich in antioxidants

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Fennel is a vegetable with an aniseed flavor, of which we eat mainly the base of the stem, called bulb. Essential companion of fish and seafood, it is a source of vitamin C. It would be better to consume more often its leaves which contain antioxidant substances. Find out how to cook fennel, its nutritional value, its history and its benefits.

Characteristics of fennel:

  • Low in calories;
  • Rich in vitamin C and antioxidant;
  • Digestive properties;
  • Fight against aerophagia and stomach aches;
  • Prevention of certain cancers;
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease.

What is fennel?

Food identity card

  • Origin: Mediterranean basin;
  • Season: Between June and October;
  • Color: White bulb and green stems;
  • Flavor: Aniseed.

Characteristics of fennel

When harvested, fennel is in the form of a white, ribbed bulb that bears bright green stems and serrated foliage.

Fennel, aniseed vegetable rich in antioxidants: understand everything in 2 min

Word from the nutritionist

To take full advantage of the benefits of fennel, consume the raw salad for example.

Nutritional values ​​of fennel

Per 100g of raw fennel:

Nutrients                                                               Quantities                                                             
Protein 0.9 g
Fat 0.2g
Carbohydrates 3.01 g
Water 93 g
Fibers 1.9g
Vitamin C 5 mg
Vitamin B9 47.5 µg
Beta carotene 12 µg
Calcium 24 mg
Phosphorus 26 mg
Potassium 440 mg


6 benefits of fennel: why eat it?

  1. Fennel is rich in antioxidants that could protect body cells from damage by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging.
  2. Fennel is low in calories thanks to its richness in water and its low lipid content. It is therefore an ally of choice during periods of weight loss.
  3. Rich in fiber, it will improve intestinal transit. It also has digestive properties, especially when consumed as an infusion. It helps fight against aerophagia and upset stomach.
  4. Fennel contains polyacetylenes, bioactive compounds that have shown, among other things, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects in addition to preventing the multiplication of cancer cells.
  5. Fennel contains group B vitamins including vitamin B9 which allows the proper development of the fetus during pregnancy.
  6. Rich in vitamin C, fennel strengthens the immune system.

How to choose your fennel

We usually find fennel from June until much of winter. The bulb should be white or light green, firm, with no yellowish or woody traces, and should give off a pleasant smell of liquorice or anise. Preferably choose small bulbs, which are much softer than the large ones. The leaves, when present, should be very green and fresh.

The different varieties

Among the ten varieties of fennel, three dominate the market:

  • The sweet: it is very swollen at the base and its petioles are thick and whitish
  • Bitter: its very green petioles start from the base of the bulb
  • Florence or Finocchio fennel: if the first two are appreciated as a condiment, it is grown only for its bulb because its flavor is sweeter and sweeter. It is the one most often found on the markets.

Keep well

In the refrigerator: A few days in an airtight container. Consume it as quickly as possible, because it quickly loses its flavor.

In the freezer: Slice and blanch for five minutes. Cool under cold water and drain well before freezing. Avoid too long freezing, which would cause it to lose its flavor.

Food preparation

How to cook it? How to match it?

  • In salads with red pepper, sweet onion and lemon zest; homemade potatoes and mayonnaise; chicory and avocado; a peeled orange and thin slices of prosciutto, or watercress.
  • Sautéed in olive oil and simply seasoned with black pepper and salt, it is an excellent starter or ideal accompaniment to roasted meats.
  • Add it to couscous or tagines. However, because of its pronounced flavor, some prefer to cook it and serve it separately.
  • In compote. Chop fennel and onions in equal amounts. Brown the onions in olive oil, then add the fennel, a little water, paprika, salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Ember. It is one of the best ways to taste it. Cut the bulb into quarters and brown them in olive oil until they have a nice golden color. Add vegetable or chicken broth and simmer until reduced by half. If desired, peel an orange raw, cut it into thin slices and garnish the fennel. You can also braise it, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and put it in the oven for a few minutes under the grill.
  • Fish soup. Fennel is an essential ingredient in bouillabaisse and fish soups in general.
  • Squash soup. Roast some squash and garlic in the oven until they are tender. Saute minced onion and fennel in oil, add broth, then squash, and simmer for about fifteen minutes. Add ground cumin, fennel and coriander seeds, mix the preparation and serve with a spoonful or two of yogurt.
  • Oven roasted potatoes and fennel. Dice the potatoes and chop the fennel and onion. Mix the vegetables with olive oil, making sure to coat them well. Add chopped parsley, salt and pepper, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in an oven set to 240 ° C (465 ° F). Cook for about half an hour, stirring a few times.
  • Risotto. Brown onion and fennel minced in butter, season with freshly grated nutmeg. Cook for ten minutes, then add arborio rice and stir to coat the grains of butter well. Gradually pour hot broth into the preparation, following the usual method for risotto. At the end of cooking, add a little olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese, and serve.
  • Tomato and fennel casserole. Slice an onion and brown it in the oil for about ten minutes. Add fennel slices and cook for ten minutes. Add peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped tomatoes and black olives. Leave to reduce for 10 minutes and season with thyme and basil.
  • Fish fillet. Brown onion and fennel in oil, add garlic, lemon juice and white wine. Cook for a few minutes, then add the fish and crushed tomatoes. Cover and cook until the fish is done. Reserve, reduce the preparation and coat the fish.
  • Beans or flageolet beans with fennel. Chop fennel and onion, sauté them in oil until very tender and add canned flageolet beans or beans as well as tomatoes and a little water. Season with thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and parsley, salt and pepper, reheat and serve.
  • In Sicily, it is prepared with sardines and pasta. Brown the chopped onion, add diced fennel, shirted garlic and sardines. Add wine and water to the level of the fennel, cook for 5 minutes, then add the cooked pasta and sauté over high heat.
  • Caldariello. This typical Italian Apulia stew is prepared with lamb leg cubes cooked in sheep’s milk with wild fennel. We can rather use goat milk in which we will simmer a bulb of minced fennel as well as fennel seeds, garlic, onion and parsley. Heat over high heat until the milk barely begins to boil, then lower the heat and add the lamb. Cook for 2 hours 30 minutes without ever boiling. Serve with toast.

Side effects / Contraindications / Allergies

Oral allergy syndrome

This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins from a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollen, specifically birch pollen in the case of fennel. So, when some people allergic to pollen consume raw or cooked fennel, an immunological reaction can occur. These people have itching and burning sensations limited to the mouth, lips and throat. Symptoms can appear and then go away, usually within minutes of eating or touching the offending food. In some more serious cases, an anaphylactic reaction may occur. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and consumption of fennel does not have to be systematically avoided. If similar reactions occur during the consumption of fennel, it is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.

History of fennel

The term “fennel” appeared in the French language in the 13th century. It comes from the Latin foeniculum which means “small hay”. It originally designated a kind of aromatic grass which had the property of keeping insects away.

Fennel are often mistakenly called “anise” or “dill”. This confusion is found in many languages ​​and results from the resemblance, both in their form and in their uses, between these three plants of the apiaceae family. However, only fennel is used as a vegetable.

Native to southern Europe and Asia Minor, where it still grows wild on rocky and dry terrain, fennel has been eaten there since the earliest times. Cultivated by the Egyptians, it was popular with the Greeks and the Romans. The latter used it for its medicinal properties, in particular as an antidote against the stings of scorpions as well as the bites of snakes and dogs. The rich symbolism that surrounds this plant makes it possible to measure the importance it has assumed over the centuries. Thus, in ancient Phrygia, the followers of the worship of the god Sabazios adorn themselves during the ritual ceremonies. According to Greek mythology, humans received knowledge of Olympus in the form of a burning coal placed in a stalk of fennel. Finally, for the former Anglo-Saxons,

However, the fennel bulb (which is not strictly speaking a bulb, but a bulge at the base of the stem) as we know it today does not exist in the wild. It is rather the result of a long selection process undertaken by the Italians, probably in Sicily, where it is found in many traditional dishes. Until recently, this subspecies (F. vulgare var. Azoricum) was only cultivated in the Mediterranean basin. The plant being sensitive to the  photoperiod, it rose easily to seeds in the regions further north. Then this situation changed in the 1970s, after varieties tolerating the longer days of northern summers were selected. Since then, its culture has spread both in the United States, in northern Europe and in the United Kingdom. Italy remains the country where we consume, produce and export the most.

For further

Organic gardening

Fennel cultivation requires a certain amount of skill, but the result is really worth it. The vegetable freshly harvested in the garden is much tastier than that found in commerce.

  • It can be sown indoors early in the spring and transplanted to the garden when the frosts no longer threaten. Also, it can be sown in the ground in the middle of summer to harvest it in the fall.
  • Choose a sunny and dry place. The soil should have been enriched the previous fall.
  • pH: 6.5 to 7; spacing between plants: 30 cm.
  • Irrigation: make sure it receives water every week.
  • Cut the flower stems if the plant is looking for seeds. When the bulb is about the size of an egg, butter the plant.

Note: it is preferable to devote a space of its own to the fennel, as it inhibits the growth of many vegetable plants, particularly beans, tomatoes and kohlrabi. In addition, fennel and coriander inhibit each other.

Ecology and environment

Fennel essential oil: against viral plant diseases
Experiments with fennel essential oil have shown that it exerts antiviral activity on various plant diseases, in particular potato virus X.

Fennel was introduced to California as a condiment in the early days of colonization. It has naturalized in the central and southern part of the state to the point of being considered as a weed. It invades vacant lots, land bordering roads or rivers and other uncultivated places. It tends to occupy all the space at the expense of local species and it is difficult to eradicate it. In addition, because of its strong anise smell, cattle refuse to graze it so that it is of no interest to breeders.

Programs aimed at eradicating fennel and restoring the original wild flora have therefore been set up. However, entomologists are worried about this decision, certain local species of insects having become entirely dependent on him for their survival. This is the case of Papilio zelicaon, a butterfly belonging to the group of swallow tails, of which the larvae feed exclusively. Before the introduction of fennel, this species fed on angelica and pig fennel, two native plants of the same family which have practically disappeared from the region due to the loss of their habitat. The question that arises today is: should we restore the flora of a region even if it means seeing local animal species disappear? Should we rather be willing to accept the irreversible changes brought about by human activities, particularly in cases where the fauna seems to have adapted well to it?

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