The Many Great Benefits of Fennel

Cousin to parsley, fennel has a distinct almost licorice flavor that is popular in many Italian dishes like stews and pasta. The meatiest part of fennel is the white bulbs while the feathery fronds can be used as a perfect flavoring on top of pastas or salads. Like celery, the entire plant is edible and can be braised, sauteed, roasted, or grilled as the bulb softens when cooked. This vegetable has great health and taste benefits to know about. Here's why you should start cooking with fennel this summer: 

* Fennel season is in season from May to August. Check to make sure the fronds are firm and not brown or moist and that the stalks are crisp. If you happen to buy extra, fennel can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and should be used within 3 to 5 days otherwise the flavor will dry out. The best way to eat fennel is to trim the outer layers and stalks about an inch above the bulb. If you're grilling it, do not detach the vegetable from the root.

* Potassium, vitamin C, fiber, iron, calcium and magnesium: these are just some in a long list of nutrients that fennel contains. It is also a very good source of folic acid and phosphorous making fennel a great medicinal supplement. But even if you just have bad breath, fennel can be used as a breath freshener tea or in your mixed drinks!

* Whether you use fennel seeds are delicious in sausages, stews, soups, and curries. Use the fronds as a garnish or chop them and use as a flavor enhancer like you would with dill or parsley. Tomato sauces are great when you add chopped fennel as well.

Whether you're sprinkling fennel on top of soups or using your mandolin to julienne fennel for a salad, you have a plethora of options to get started on this summer!

What are your favorite ways to eat fennel?

Photo: SummerTomato on flickr