Over 2,000 years ago, Roman medicine states that Pliny the Elder (a natural philosopher) included over 20 uses for fennel in his encyclopedia “Naturalis Historia.” It’s been held in high esteem in ancient Greece to enhance longevity, strength and courage. During medieval times, it was used to ward off witchcraft and spells – but (I think) it just protects your health and thus seemed to have “magical” powers.
Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet, adding a refreshing contribution to the ever popular Mediterranean cuisine. Most often associated with Italian cooking, be sure to add this to your selection of fresh vegetables from the autumn through early spring when it is readily available and at its best.
Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.
Health benefits of fennel Root:
- Fennel bulb is a versatile vegetable, used since ancient times for its nutritional and medicinal properties. This winter season has some noteworthy essential oils, flavonoid anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that have known health benefits.
- Bulb fennel is one of very low calorie vegetables. 100 g bulb provides just 31 calories. Further, it contains generous amounts of fiber (3.1 g/100 g or 8% of RDI), very little fat and zero cholesterol.
- Fresh bulbs give sweet anise-like flavor. Much of it is due to high concentration of aromatic essential oils like anethole, estragole, and fenchone (fenchyl acetate). Anethole has been found to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
- The bulbs have moderate amounts of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Their juicy fronds indeed contain several vital vitamins such as pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in small but healthy proportions. 100 g fresh bulbs provide 27 µg of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Their adequate levels in the diet during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
- In addition, fennel bulb contains an average amount of water-soluble vitamin, vitamin-C. 100 g of fresh bulbs provide 12 mg or 20% of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Further, it has small amounts of vitamin A.
- The bulbs have very good levels of heart-friendly electrolyte potassium. 100 g provides 414 mg or 9% of daily-recommended levels. It is an important electrolyte inside the cell. Potassium helps reduce blood pressure and rate of heartbeats by countering effects of sodium. Fennel also contains small amounts of minerals such as copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
Photo Gallery of Fennel Roots: