Although the fennel plant is commonly mistaken for celery, and its taste often mistaken for anise, fennel is definitely in a class of its own.
Although the slight licorice like flavor of fennel is similar to the flavor of anise, the two are in no way related. Fennel is however related to celery. Both plants are part of the parsley family, and just like celery, fennel is very high in fiber and very low in calories. But that’s where the similarities end.
Fennel has a Considerably High Nutrient Value
A one cup serving of fennel provides one third of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin A and one half of the DRI of vitamin C. Fennel also provides 15-20 % of the RDI of calcium and iron.
Fennel has been used through the ages for treating a variety of different ailments. Fennel tea is said to stimulate milk production in nursing women, aid digestion and to prevent bad breath. Fennel is also one of the oldest known diet remedies. Ancient Greeks and Romans would use the seeds to prevent obesity.
Fennel in the Kitchen
Besides being high in vitamins, fennel is also a staple in many kitchens. It is most commonly found in Italian recipes, but is also a staple ingredient in Chinese five spice powders as well as many middle-eastern dishes.
Fennel can be eaten raw in a salad, grilled, braised, sauteed, steamed or stuffed. The possibilities are endless.
Fennel is available all year, but is best during late fall and winter. Before storing fennel, remove the stalks from the bulbs and store separately wrapped in plastic. Fennel is fragile and is best if consumed right away.
If you have a baby who is prone to getting gas, make a tea from fennel seeds and use it instead of Gripe Water. It works to relieve the gas, is economical and all natural. I found this particularly helpful when the Doctor put two of my children on Soy baby formula.