For centuries, Mediterranean cultures have used fennel as both a flavor enhancer and a health tonic. Throughout the region, fennel is a popular ingredient in soups, stews and pasta sauces. Fennel seeds also make a great tea, perfect for soothing an upset stomach during treatment.
Wild fennel, the yellow-flowering plants that grow in abundance throughout the Mediterranean and Southern California, are different from the domesticated plant found in many American supermarkets. Though the fronds and stalks are similar in appearance, wild fennel doesn’t have a bulb like domesticated fennel. Instead, the stalks are diced and cooked, or the fronds chopped as an herb, adding distinct flavor to all sorts of dishes.
In addition to being good for digestion, fennel is high in fiber, making it a good choice for helping to maintain regular digestion during treatment. It’s also high in vitamin C, folate and potassium, all of which help bolster the immune system.
If you can’t find wild fennel growing in your area or at a local farmers’ market, domesticated fennel bulbs can be used in a multitude of dishes as well–served raw in salads or sautéed, grilled, or baked with your favorite legumes or lean meats or simply steamed and drizzled with olive oil and lemon. Using whole fennel seeds or an anise-flavored bouquet of dried fennel make a delicious addition to soups and stews.
Perhaps the easiest way to enjoy fennel is simply by brewing the seeds into a tea that’s great for relieving indigestion, gas or bloating.