Fennel is a crunchy, aromatic bulb that features heavily in Mediterranean cuisine. It is in season from autumn until early spring and can be eaten raw or cooked. The aromatic oil, ‘anethole’ gives the fennel its distinctive aniseed flavour. Its unique flavour lends itself to a variety of recipes, but works especially well with fish or in salads. The bulb itself is rich in a number of nutrients and fibre which explains why it is a popular medicinal plant as well as a culinary vegetable.
Fennel is a good source of vitamin C, providing around 12mg/100g. In addition to this, fennel contains many of the other B vitamins and is a particularly good source of folate. Other important minerals include potassium, phosphorous, manganese, and iron. The vitamin C content of the fennel may also increase the absorption of iron from the gut.
In addition to its wide range of nutrients, fennel is also rich in the flavonoids rutin and quercetin, which act as powerful antioxidants it the body. The aromatic oils anethole and fenchon are also believed to have antispasmodic properties, which can act of the smooth muscle of the digestive and respiratory tract. This may help to reduce bloating and cramping in the gut as well as relaxing the airways.
Fennel works well in salad. For 4 people use 2 fennel bulbs. First wash the fennel and cut into thin slices. Arrange the slices on a plate. Next peel 2 orange and separate the flesh from the skin and pith. Lay the orange over the fennel and top with olive oil and a light balsamic vinegar. Garnish with black olives.