Decoding Fennel: Nutrition, Recipe Ideas and Cooking

If fennel is the produce aisle equivalent of “The Da Vinci Code,” and you need it decoded and deciphered, you’re in the right place. Talk of fennel has been creeping into everything I read lately, from magazine articles to recipes. Fennel is not one of the items on my typical grocery list. Because it is an excellent source of Vitamin C and seems so versatile, I figured it was time to decode this mysterious food.

What is Fennel?

You may be familiar with fennel seeds. Fennel seeds are only one of the edible parts of the fennel plant. The bulb and stems which can be cooked. and the leaves are also edible. The bulb is large and white, almost shaped like a large bulb of garlic. Out of the bulb long green stems grow in layers. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, fennel is in the same family as carrots and dill.

Nutrition of Fennel

One reason fennel seems popular, besides its sweet and light taste is because of its nutrition content. It’s low in calories, high in Vitamin C, manganese, potassium and folate and as well as fiber.

Selecting Fennel

The Produce for Better Health Foundation recommends buying fennel when the bulbs are firm. Similar to zucchini or apples, look for fennel bulbs which are free from blemishes. The leaves on the fennel should be bright green.

Preparing Fennel

You can serve fennel in the refrigerator for five days. Do not wash it or cut it until you are ready to use it. You can unpeel the stalks as you would with celery. Chop them up or slice them. The whole bulb can be used, but similar that hard knot at the bottom of a head of romaine lettuce, you may want to remove the interior core of the fennel bulb.

Use the feathery fennel leaves as herbs. Fresh use them in a potato salad, with a fish dish or dry them out for a tummy-soothing tea.

Cooking Fennel

– Fennel can be used similar to root vegetables, like carrots, as the base of a vegetable or other stew or soup.

– Treat fennel like a potato and roast it whole.

– Sautee diced fennel like you would onions or mushrooms and serve with burgers or on a pizza. Or add to spaghetti sauce.

Pairing Fennel

Work fennel into your favorite dishes that included any of these ingredients

Salmon, scallops
Any lemony marinade or citrus dressing for salad

Substituting with Fennel

Use fennel as a substitute for onions when sauteeing
Instead of cucumber sandwiches, try fennel.
If a recipe calls for cicely, tarragon or dill you can use fennel instead according to The Cook’s Thesaurus.


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