A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Explore the wonderful world of fennel

Wellness/Recipe: Fennel

Fennel has a sweeter licorice flavor that can enhance your cooking.

If you’ve not yet tried fennel in any way, shape or form, give this vegetable a whirl and learn more about the plant, which means “little hay” in Latin, to see what it can do to spice up your cooking.

Fennel is a flowering plant species in the carrot family, known for its delightful smell and anise- or licorice-like flavor. The hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers is a bulbous vegetable with a tall top that looks like Queen Anne’s lace or dill and its bulb is overlapping layers, like cabbage.

More available

The plant is native to the Mediterranean region but now can be found in more locations around the world so it’s available to try, said Chrisanne Urban, a dietitian at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

The fennel plant is very versatile. Bulbs are used in cooking. Dried seeds and oil have a history of being used to make medicines, thought by the Greeks to sharpen eyesight, improve bone health, blood pressure and heart health but no studies to prove this out.

The main attraction of fennel is the bulb, Urban said. It’s very firm and crunchy; and besides use in salads it can be grilled or braised until tender. Though, the entire fennel plant can be used.

Sweet and versatile

“Its licorice-like flavor is sweet,” Urban said. “You can buy it in the store as a bulb with long green stalks coming out of it, like asparagus going to seed. Everything can be used, too, including the leaves. Fennel is versatile like celery in its own way, but with more nutrition.

“We know that when included in a high-potassium diet it can help kick out sodium, a plus for people who have to watch sodium intake,” Urban added, and fennel is nutritious. A cup of sliced fennel is 27 calories with .2 g fat; 360 g potassium; 2.7 g fiber; 6.3 g carbs; 1 g protein; and 45 g sodium. It’s a nice flavor agent that’s low calorie, crunchy, mild flavored and makes a nice addition to any dish.”

So, when you have a bit of time to try something new that’s also good for you, or you’re already a fennel fan, check out this recipe.

Fennel, dried cherries, walnuts and Roquefort Salad

Prep/cook time: 45 minutes

Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup dried sweetened cherries or cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, or stalks and sliced very thin, about 1.5 cups
  • 1 small head red or green leaf lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces, about 7 cups
  • 1 small head radicchio, quartered, cored and cut crosswise into 1/8 inch-wide strips, about 3 cups
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted in medium skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes
  • 6 ounces Roquefort, crumbled, about 1.5 cups

Instructions

Whisk honey and vinegar in medium microwave-safe bowl; stir in cherries. Cover with plastic wrap, cut several steam vents in plastic and microwave on high until cherries are plump, about 1 minute. Wisk in oil, ½ teaspoon salt and 1/8teaspoon pepper. While mixture is still warm, add sliced fennel bulb and toss to combine. Let cool to room temperature.

Toss lettuce and dried cherry/fennel mixture in large bowl; adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Divide salad among individual plates; top each portion with nuts and Roquefort. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information

Each serving contains 221 calories; 13 g carbohydrates; 17 g fat; and 407 mg sodium.

Source: Cooks Illustrated

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