The perennial fennel plant (Foeniculum vulgare) is used in cooking for its bulbs, stalks, flowers, pollen, seeds and sometimes even its feathery fronds. As a seed, fennel is a sharp, aromatic spice with the sweet, herbaceous, licorice-like flavor of anise. Fennel grows wild in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean region, where it originated, and has become naturalized in many other parts of the world.
Given the plant's Mediterranean origins, it is not surprising that the ancient Greeks were well acquainted with fennel. They knew it by the name "marathon," and the name of the plant in turn inspired the name of the plain where the Battle of Marathon took place in 490 B.C., as well as the distance-running event that subsequently grew out of the battle in tribute. Additionally, in Greek mythology, Prometheus used a stalk from the fennel plant to steal fire from the gods and bring it to humanity, thus enabling civilization to thrive and progress. Later on, during the Middle Ages, fennel was one of several herbs believed to ward off witchcraft, and was hung over the door on Midsummer's Eve to keep evil spirits at bay.
Fennel seed's medicinal uses revolve around relieving digestive problems, such as heartburn, bloating and gas. It can also be used to treat respiratory infections, cough and bronchitis. In many parts of India and Pakistan, roasted fennel seed is chewed after meals as a digestive aid and to freshen the breath.
Like many spices, fennel seed contains many phytonutrients that give it strong antioxidant properties. Among the most prominent of these is anethole, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.
Along with the similar-tasting anise, fennel seed is one of the main ingredients in the spirit absinthe. Its flavor is also featured prominently in various styles of Italian sausage, and is a crucial ingredient in the Bengali spice mixture panch phoron as well as Chinese five-spice powder. The licorice-like flavor of Fennel Seed also lends itself to sweet dessert applications.
Kosher, Gluten Free and Non-GMO.
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