Increase your vegetable vocabulary this spring and try some new foods! Ever seen a veggie in the grocery store and wondered what to do with it? Fennel is a tasty favorite often overlooked for just that reason – why not give it a try?
What is it? Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet with a unique licorice-like flavor. Used mostly in Mediterranean dishes, it is often associated with Italian cooking. Fennel looks like celery stalks growing from a white bulb. At the tip of the stalks there are leaves that grow flowers which produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible.
Why should you eat it? Fennel contains powerful antioxidants rutin and quercetin, which help reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer. It’s also rich in vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium
How to prep it? The base, stalks, and leaves can all be used in cooking. Cut the stalks away from the bulb at the place where they meet. To use the bulb, first cut it in half, remove the base, and then rinse it with water. The best way to slice it is vertically through the bulb, remove the hard core from the center before cutting it. The stalks can be used for soups, stocks and stews. Use the leaves as an herb like parsley.
How to eat it? Fennel is as versatile as it is unique. Here are a few quick and easy ways to add it to your meals:
- Saute fennel and onions for a quick and tasty side dish.
- Combine sliced fennel with avocados and oranges for a delightful salad (try this recipe).
- Braised fennel is a great complement to pan-seared scallops, grilled shrimp or salmon.
- Add sliced fennel to your sandwiches for lunch.
- Top thinly sliced fennel with plain Greek yogurt and chopped mint leaves.
Danielle Omar, MS, RD
The Food Confidence Expert