FENNEL SEEDS AS SPICE AND FENNEL BULB
Fennel is a common and much-loved spice in India. Fennel is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalised in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks. Fennel is native to the Mediterranean but also grows in Argentina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Japan, Rumania and the United States.
India is the largest exporter of fennel seeds, widely known as saunf. A common practice in most Indian households is to have few fennel seeds or saunf at the end of every meal.
The word “fennel” developed from the Middle English fennel or fenyl. This came from the Old English fenol or finol, which in turn came from the Latin feniculum or foeniculum, the diminutive of fenum or faenum, meaning “hay”. The Latin word for the plant was ferula, which is now used as the genus name of a related plant.
Fennel is a perennial herb.
It is erect, glaucous green, and grows to heights of up to 2.5 m, with hollow stems. The plant has wispy leaves and clusters of tiny yellow flowers on fine stalks. The fruit is a dry seed.
The seeds, which closely resemble that of anise seeds in appearance, feature oblong or curved shape, about 3-4 mm long, light brown with fine vertical stripes over their surface. Fresh fennel seeds are a vibrant green. The seeds have a warm, sweet and intense flavour which turns slightly mellow and bitter on roasting.
Fennel bulb used as a vegetable is closely related to seeding fennel. It has grown for its anise-flavored sweet taste fronds in many parts of Mediterranean region.
Fennel is available fresh on the stalk and as dried or ground seeds. Look for fennel which is evenly greenish-yellow and not brown. Fennel stores best if dry-roasted, it also grinds easily. Store the spice in a dry jar away from light.
Fennel is also used for some medicinal purpose. The use of fennel as a digestive aid is well known. Fennel tea is considered very helpful for indigestion, bloating and constipation because of the oils found in these seeds. Drinking fennel tea regularly helps flush out excess fluids as it works as a diuretic. Fennel seeds reduce asthma symptoms. Fennel seeds and their phytonutrients help clear sinuses. It also helps purify the blood. Fennel seeds contain vitamin A which helps to improve eyesight.
The seeds also have very powerful free radical scavenging properties that help beat oxidative stress and protects the body from various cancers of the skin, stomach and breasts. Fennel seeds have a very potent chemo modulatory effect too. Fennel seeds have emmenagogue properties that promote and regulate menstrual flow. The herb also has phytoestrogens that help with issues like premenstrual syndrome, menopausal disorders, and breast enlargement.
The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are used in many of the culinary traditions of the world. Fennel leaves are used in some parts of India as leafy green vegetables either by themselves or mixed with other vegetables, cooked to be served and consumed as part of a meal. Young tender leaves are also used for garnishes, as a salad, to add flavour to salads, to flavour sauces to be served with puddings, and also in soups and fish sauce. Many eggs, fish, and other dishes employ fresh or dried fennel leaves. Florence fennel is a key ingredient in some Italian and German salads, often tossed with chicory and avocado, or it can be braised and served as a warm side dish. It may be blanched or marinated, or cooked in risotto. Read Kerala style cornfed chicken stew recipe
Fennel seems to add richness to meat gravies, sweetness to desserts and a special zest to vegetables.it is used powdered or whole with lamb, potatoes and in crisp golden sweets that are drenched in fennel-flavoured sugar syrup. Fennel is also used in pickles and chutneys in North India and a fennel infusion is a delicious base for refreshing drinks.
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