Fall Fennel

Back in the (long-ago) day, I was one of those weird kids who loved black licorice. Not the red, green and purple stuff, but the pungent, earthy, more sophisticated, closer-to-the-real-thing, turn-your-teeth-black, heavy-handed inky gems that yanked out fillings.

All Sorts treats were a delight!

Even better were the salty-sweet black nubs to tuck away in the pocket of my cheek.

That’s my way of saying that I have a bit of a nostalgic penchant for the licorice – or anise – flavour.

Which leads me down the food and health path to…the not-so-oft-used fennel plant, which appeals to me as it brings a mild licorice flavour and fragrance to the plate. And so, caught up in the oven-using times of full-on autumn weather, I picked up a couple of fennels the other day, and enjoyed one roasted with coconut oil and sea salt. The other was thinly-sliced and eaten raw as part of a salad. More on that later.

courtesy healthcareaboveall.com

Let me give you a brief run-down of this strange-looking plant.

Looks: This crunchy, bulbous vegetable has 3 parts: the root, the feathery fronds, and the seeds found inside the blossoms of a mature plant. Fennel is a cousin to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Uses: Fennel has been used in Ancient Chinese Medicine for all manner of ailments, from congestion and conjunctivitis, to stimulating the appetite to increasing the flow of breast milk. Oil of fennel is purported to relieve upset stomach. Tea made from ground fennel soothes a sore throat.

Nutritional Value: Vitamin C is fennel’s most active vitamin, offering marvelous immune support. It is also rich in potassium (great for high blood pressure), offers ample fiber (which limits cholesterol build-up and helps with digestion), and plenty of supporting B-vitamins. Phytonutrients in the bulb and seeds include the flavonoids rutin and quercetin – these antioxidants slow down the aging process and help us to resist infection. One of fennel’s most important nutrients is anethole, a component found in oil of fennel that is considered to be a powerful anti-cancer agent with major anti-inflammatory properties.

Not bad, huh?

Like I said, thickly-sliced chunks of fennel dressed simply with coconut oil and sea salt and roasted until tender in a 375 degree oven makes a lovely side vegetable to your main dish.

Or, give this simple side salad a whirl:

Fennel Salad with Orange, Onion and Avocado

Ingredients

1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced (I used a mandolin)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced in long strips

1 small orange, peeled, segmented

1 small avocado, peeled, cut in small strips

1/2 tsp toasted fennel seeds

Himalayan sea salt, freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Pile sliced fennel bulb on a long dish. Add layer of avocado, red onion and orange segments. Sprinkle with fennel seeds, sea salt and pepper.

An unusual but tasty dish…and a bit of show-stopper. But so easy!