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Fennel, rich in valuable nutrients, is considered a great ally for digestive health. At the table it brings freshness and a delicious aniseed touch.
Fennel is a characteristic ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine that is at its best from autumn to early spring. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) It has a white or pale green bud, the outer layers of which are prolonged forming stems that culminate with green leaves and yellow flowers that produce the seeds. The chopped stems and leaves are used to flavor dishes; the seeds, which are actually very small fruits, as a spice and in herbal medicine; and the "bulb" is consumed as a vegetable, both raw and cooked.
The power of its terpenes
Today it is known that fennel contains a unique combination of beneficial substances for its antioxidant properties. Among these are bioflavonoids such as rutin, quercetin and various camferol glycosides, but the most fascinating is anethole, a terpene that constitutes 60% of the essential oil and that gives fennel the flavor note of anise, a plant where It is also found.
Anethole is found distributed in the bud, stem and leaves, although the concentration in the seeds is much higher. In animal studies, it has shown powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity, probably thanks to the fact that it prevents the activation of a molecule called NF-kappa B, which favors the appearance of precancerous cells. In addition, anethole protects the liver against the action of toxic agents.
A great digestif
The best known property of anethole, and by extension of fennel, is the carminative, that is, the ability to facilitate the expulsion of gases and relieve digestive discomfort. That is why it is recommended to add the seeds to fatty stews and legumes.
Along with its peculiar compounds, fennel is rich in vitamin C when consumed fresh.
It also adds a hint of flavor to absinthe, an alcoholic beverage that was banned in France in the early 20th century and accused of causing hallucinations. In France, the law limits the contribution of fenchona - a fennel terpene that gives it the note of bitter and harsh taste - but in the amounts in which it is present in food it does not represent any risk. On the contrary, it produces beneficial effects on appetite and digestion.
An allergy or intolerance to fennel is very rare. However, it contains furanocoumarins, which may contraindicate its consumption –and that of celery and parsley– if you suffer from photodermatitis.
A delicacy on the table
Bulbous fennel is a vegetable with very unique characteristics. The edible and cookable part of the bud, fleshy and greenish-white in color, has a crunchy texture and a sweet taste reminiscent of celery, but with the delicate anise aroma that anethole gives it. This aromatic quality is, among others, what makes it a popular ingredient to include in blue fish and seafood recipes.
It is delicious with other vegetables, cereals or even legumes.
Its refreshing quality is used in spring salads or in classic crudités.
It can also be prepared boiled, steamed, roasted, and stewed. However, it has a dominant aroma that needs to be tempered. To prepare it, the root insert is cut, and the dry and flaky leaves from the outside are removed. The strands of the bud are removed by pulling up. The cut pieces should be immersed in very cold water to prevent them from rusting.
Seeds or fresh leaves are used as a condiment, and they are used to flavor broths, marinades, marinades and seasoned oils, among others. The powder from the ground seeds is part of some curries and is included in the traditional Indian garam masala.