Fennel is in the carrot family, like dill and parsley. When left to flower, they are lovely plants in the garden- light and airy foliage with an abundance of small flowers group together in an umbel. Birds and insects flock to the seeds after flowering. Fennel is Mediterranean in origin and naturalizes easily, perhaps to the point of being of nuisance. I planted one once and it still comes up at will all over. Fennel is called marathon in Greek because the original battle of Marathon was fought on a plain of fennel.
The variety grown for its bulb is Florence fennel. It is crunchy, slightly sweet with an anise flavor. Nutritionally fennel provides fiber, Vitamin C, folate, and a broad array of minerals- potassium, iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Fennel also contains anethole which give it its characteristic anise smell and flavor. In animals anethole reduces inflammation and may help prevent the reoccurrence of cancer. All good reasons to eat more fennel but more importantly, it taste good. Fennels seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients - it is just a little difficult to eat them in enough mass to get significant amounts.
The easiest way to add more fennel to your diet is to chop it up and add straight to salads. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor and bite. Perhaps the most difficult thing with fennel is figuring out how to chop it up into a regular dice. There are a few u-tube tutorials out there if you prefer graphic details but I find it easiest to chop off the top (save for garnish and you can also chop up the stems), then chop the bulb in half slicing from the top the long way thru the bulb. Remove the core and if necessary the outer leaves if dirty and stained. Then slice into however big a dice you prefer. It is an exercise in geometry for those who prefer perfect uniformity in size and shape.
Spinach salad with fennel and blue cheese
- red onion sliced thin
- blue cheese crumbed
- fennel bulb sliced up
- your favorite olive oil vinaigrette (you won't need anything strongly flavored)
- Pecans if you want
Toss all together. The marinated butter beans (gigante beans) in most grocery store deli olive bars go well with this salad and add some extra protein.