I’ve often wondered how fennel tastes. I was able to get organic fennel and made this Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad with Balsamic Glaze.
Fennel is called finocchio in Italian, and finule in Old English. In Greek mythology, Prometheus used the stalk of a fennel plant to steal fire from the gods. Whatever it’s magical history – it tastes like anise (licorice) and gives an interesting flavor and crunch to a dish.
Fennel is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in the 10th century. The charm is intended for treatment of poison (snakebite) and infection through the preparation of nine herbs made into a paste. Knowing what we know about the power of herbs to heal, it probably worked pretty well back then.
Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel is high in vitamin C, fiber, folate and potassium. It is a good anti-oxidant.
Interestingly, the volatile oil that gives it the distinctive flavor, anethole, has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. The anethole in fennel prevents activation of a potentially strong gene-altering and inflammation-triggering molecule called NF-kappaB.
Anethole has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.