Here we have another plant that is both a herb and a spice. Fennel Seed is a spice with a fresh, anise aroma, while the fronds (leaves) and the bulb are the herb. I covered the Herb in my book Herbs In the kitchen, which is available from kindle.
For those that have not yet gotten the Herb book, I will include a little history of Fennel. It’s history can be traced beck to ancient Rome where it was a symbol of prosperity and good health. Both the herb and the spice were documented in the cuisine by Pliny the Elder, who was one of the earliest culinary authors. In 490 BC the Ancient Greeks fought the Persians in a famous battle near the city of Marathon. It is said that the battleground was actually a field of fennel and the word for fennel is derived for the Greek word for “marathon”. Greek myths states that the stalk passed knowledge from the gods to men. Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) a modern day abbess/herbalist/writer and philosopher of her time, considered fennel an all purpose herb. She recommended it for everything from an upset stomach to a cure for bad breath.
Fennel seeds contain many minerals and vitamins: vitamin C as well as B3, plus fiber, manganese, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Fennel has expectorant properties, making it an excellent cure for cough. It is popularly used as a weight-loss supplement because of its appetite-suppressant properties. It can make you fell full longer, however as with any spice or herb it should only be considered for medical use after a consultation with you doctor.
If you eat sweet Italian sausage you will recognize fennel seeds as one of the main flavoring ingredients. A lot of bakers add fennel seed to multi-grain recipes. One recipe I have calls for taking fennel seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and sesame seeds, blending them into a paste using a coffee grinder and adding them to the dough. Then toss in a few whole seeds for texture and appearance. Perhaps some on the top of the loaf as well. My friend Amy Young Miller is a baker of breads par excellence. You can find a wonderful bread recipe by visiting her blog at http://vomitingchicken.com look for the blog post Increase the happiness in your home today: bake bread!
Sometimes fennel seeds are contused with anise seed, however fennel is milder and less sweet and fragrant than anise. Anise is stronger and used to make licorice among other things.
Fennel seeds can be used both whole and ground in cooking. They should be purchased whole and ground as needed. Even when using the whole, you should bruise the seeds to release the aroma. I use a very small mortar and pestle that I picked up in Mexico, but you can use a rolling pin just as well.
Store the seeds in a dark area away from the sunlight in an airtight glass container. Try to use the seeds within 6 months.
It you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends by clicking on the buttons below the article. You can follow this blog by clicking on NetworkedBlogs in the lower right corner of this page, Thanks.
Eat Healthy, Laugh Often and Enjoy Life~