Fennel is a perennial herb which belongs to the umbelliferae family which includes dill, celery, cilantro and parsley. Umbelliferae refers to how the flowers are formed. Used in ancient times as a treatment for arthritis and nausea, and as a sedative. It is also one of the three main herbs in making the alcoholic drink called absinthe.
I have the chance planting fennel in the garden. The variety is called Florence Fennel or “Finnochio”. I was successful I might say cause I ended up with fennel like weeds. They just keep growing and I really had fun with it trying different recipes on how to cook them. The bulb that forms in the base of the stem is the best part of the fennel. You can use it in salads or cook them with other vegetables as a side dish. It is good to use in making “estofado” a dish we cook in my hometown for special occasions like fiesta or weddings and birthdays. The anise flavor of the fennel seeds lends a wonderful flavor to this dish along with cinnamon sticks and bay leaf.
The seeds are used as breath fresheners or in toothpaste. It is also a source of phytoestrogen, beneficial for mothers who are breastfeeding or for menopausal women.
Did you know that fennel is called “marathon” in Greek language. That’s the origin of the sport marathon, meaning hills full of fennel.