Fennel: Uses and Benefits
In Ayurveda, Fennel pacifies Vata and Pitta, and is helpful for digestion for Kapha in small quantities. Fennel is cooling, and offers a sweet taste too to recipes and traditional medicines. Consuming a teaspoon of fennel seeds after a meal helps enhance digestion and freshens the breath.
Fennel was traditionally known as the slimming herb as it has a stimulating effect on the metabolism and helps to depress the appetite and desire for sweets, chocolates and rich cakes. Eat the leaves, stems and seeds, or make a leaf or seed tea for weight loss. Fennel helps the liver and pancreas in the metabolism of fats and sugars. Also, it has been said, fennel helps to dissolve fat deposits in the body. One problem with the accumulation of fat in the body is that it must be mobilised into the blood steam before it can be burnt as energy. Anything which assists this process (which fennel is credited for) will help with weight loss, provided attention is also paid to factors of overall health. Fennel as a diuretic herb, increases the expulsion of urine or a build up of fluid retention in the body. Fat cells store a lot of water and as the fat is broken down, this water is released and can pass from the body.
Modern Science Catches Up...
It has been shown to have various medicinal uses and the medical publications have shown that it is implicated in the following:
- Anaemia: Fennel has high levels of iron;
- Indigestion: Fennel can facilitate digestion;
- Respiratory Disorders: Components of Cineole and Anetol are natural expectorants;
- Fennel is also an antioxidant & diuretic, thereby helping removal of toxic substances from the body and helping in rheumatism, swelling etc;
- Fennel can positively help with bone health;
- Fennel is anti-inflammatory and potentially helps with liver protection;
- Fennel inhibits mutagenesis (protects DNA against abnormal changes);
- In combination with Liquorice has been shown to aid sleep;
- Fennel can help protect the stomach.
Fennel Culinary Uses
Fennel has a similar taste profile to liquorice and anise and is typically used to compliment fish in many mediterranean dishes. In Italy and Spain its seeds also flavour sausage and various cured meats.
Fennel dates back to nearly 500 BC and its name comes from the Greek word "marathon" because the Battle of Marathon was fought between the Greeks and the Persians on a field of fennel. The Roman philosopher Pliny discusses in his writings fennels' benefits for eyesight. Emperor Charlemagne demanded that fennel be grown in gardens because of its healing properties. During the Middle Ages, people believed that fennel could ward off bad spirits and bring them good luck so they would display it in their homes.
Aside from the seed, fennel bulbs and the leaf are used in cooking. They are particularly appreciated in the Mediterranean kitchen. The bulb, frequently found marinated on starters, has an anise flavor with touches of celery notes. The feathery leaf, resembling dill, imparts a subtle liquorice flavor and is used with the bulb or as an herb.
When shopping for whole fennel, look for a firm bulb with the leaves and stalks still attached. Serve the fennel chopped into salads or enjoy it as the Italians do -- sliced raw with olive oil, salt and lemon wedges. Fennel bulbs are excellent marinated, braised or roasted, on their own or as a part of a dish.
Meatballs / Albondigas
(8 large meatballs)
0.340 g ground beef
110 g ground pork
1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs
1/4 cup minced onions
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix lightly, but thoroughly, with hands. Form mixture into 8 meatballs, using about 1/3 cup for each one. Place on a rack over a roasting pan so that any fat will drain off during cooking. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cooked through.
Serve with pasta and tomato sauce, as desired.