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. In India, fennel seed is a key ingredient in curry powders and many Indian restaurants offer sugar-coated fennel seeds at the end of meals to help aid digestion. Fennel seeds also make a great tea, perfect for soothing an upset stomach or helping ease nausea 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 leaves and stalks are similar in appearance, wild fennel doesn’t have a bulb similar to domesticated fennel. Instead, the stalks are diced and cooked, and the fronds are chopped as an herb, adding a distinct flavor to all sorts of dishes.
Fennel is high in fiber which is important for maintaining regular digestion during treatment if you are experiencing constipation due to medications or treatment side effects. It also contains vitamin C, folate, and potassium, all of which help bolster the immune system.
Fennel bulbs can be used in a multitude of dishes. Delicious when sautéed, grilled, or baked with your favorite legumes or lean meats, fennel is supremely satisfying when simply steamed and drizzled with olive oil and lemon. Using whole fennel seeds or an anise-flavored bouquet of dried fennel is a great way to add a slightly sweet flavor to soups and stews.
Perhaps the easiest way to enjoy fennel is simply by brewing the seeds into a tea, which can aid in relieving indigestion, gas, or bloating.