Are you tired of bringing that potato salad to summer BBQ’s? Do you want to experiment with a different ingredient while impressing all your friends?
Black licorice lovers, this one is for you! Ever heard of fennel? This highly aromatic vegetable has a distinct flavour that resembles licorice. It comes from the umbelliferae family (the same family as carrots, celery and parsley) and is in season, across North America, year round. Its feather-like leaves resemble dill and are often used as a garnish to dishes, while the stalk and bulb can be used in a variety of ways. The fennel plant also contains seeds that are commonly mistaken for anise, a spice, as it has a similar flavour profile to fennel. So make note when using a recipe that calls for fennel seeds.
And for those who are new to fennel, fear not! Cooking it can actually reduce its strong licorice flavour. This can be a good way to ease your way into exploring this often-underutilized vegetable. Some common cooking methods of fennel include; braising, boiling, sautéeing, steaming, roasting. In terms of how to use it, fennel can be incorporated into soups, an ingredient in a side dish or for the more bold, it can act as the star of a dish like in a salad. And good news! This vibrant green vegetable is in season year round and is relatively inexpensive!
So for those who are curious, let’s dig into the nutrition side of fennel. Fennel is a healthy option for your next summer side dish as it contains Vitamin C, which helps maintain proper function of the immune system. Additionally, fennel is packed with fibre, folate, and potassium, which are nutrients that aid in lowering cholesterol, stroke incidence, and blood pressure. Fennel also consists of various phytonutrients that act as antioxidants. Specifically, it contains antehole, a well-researched phytonutrient that has shown to reduce inflammation and occurrence of cancer. Overall, consuming all parts of the fennel vegetable (bulb, stalk, and plant) can contribute to the maintenance of good health.
Now, it’s time for you to go to your local grocery store, pick up some fennel, and make this salad to accompany those burgers this summer season.
Fun Fact: Fennel is a popular antiflatulent and for this reason the seeds are apart of Mukwhas; a colourful Indian after meal snack intended to help with digestion.
Writing by UBC Dietetic Students Kelsey Moore and Shadi Balanji.
Recipe inspired by Gerry Kasten, RD.
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