The next best thing to finding four-leaf clovers and chasing leprechauns is eating fennel. Okay, the second best thing? It’s green so just go with it!
With St. Patty’s Day tomorrow it only makes sense to put the limelight (get it?) on one of spring’s green gems. Fennel is admired for its unique licorice-like flavor with slight sweetness to match—an unexpected taste from a green and white vegetable that looks like an out-of-control celery. But, don’t let the odd shape or the thought of eating a veggie that resembles a candy store item throw you off. I have an extreme aversion to black jelly beans (yuck!) and fennel’s delicate flavor really is one to rave about. The synergy spring green gets an A+ in the nutrition department and should be an addition to your vegetable gamut…. if you want to start sounding like a true chef that is.
Like many in the vegetable family, Fennel is a good source for fiber, vitamin C, potassium and manganese, but it is the unique combination of phytonutrients that puts the edible herb over the top. The mixture of flavonoids makes fennel a powerful antioxidant that is thought to reduce inflammation and the risk of cancer. Now you can see why the aromatic plant with a celery-esque crunch is one of Italy’s most popular vegetables.
Although fennel can do just fine on its own, the shunned member of the parsley family more often falls into the supporting actress role. However, the emerald veg’s forte is the power to blend and enhance other flavors which quickly makes fennel the star. Imagine Italian sausage without it? Most likely the spice form of fennel is what you are familiar with as the greenish-brown seed makes up many rustic types of bread, meat rubs and it is one of the essential spices in Chinese five-spice powder. But getting comfortable with the fresh form is a good idea.
Here are a few ways to use it:
- Adorn your sandwich with sliced fennel by adding it to a classic turkey or get fancy with a tuna sandwich with marinated fennel.
- Have a meal straight from a leprechaun’s heart with a romaine, fennel and avocado salad. Adding citrus segments like grapefruit, orange or clementine is a true salad winner.
- Keep it simple and indulge in roasted fennel with balsamic vinegar. Also consider grilling or sautéing fennel until golden brown.
- Take your snacking to the next level with a fennel dip that will blow your mind.
- If you make a fennel risotto, can I come over?
Like celery, the entire plant is edible. If the thought of eating fennel is a daunting task because of the bulb, the stalks and the feathery fronds then check out this video that gives you the lowdown on how to cut and manage the bulb:
Have you eaten or cooked with fennel? How was it?