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Fennel: The Uses and Nutrition Facts of This Delicious Antioxidant, Vitamin C Powerhouse Vegetable

Now is a perfect time to add some fennel -- the crunchy, subtly licorice-flavored veggie -- to your springtime menus, as its prime season is just wrapping up. If you've never tried fennel, you've surely noticed it, as its shape is unlike any other vegetable.


Fennel has a texture similar to celery with a somewhat sweet, licorice-like flavor (that gets a bit nuttier when it's roasted).

Fennel has a pale green bulb from which celery-like stalks tipped with feathery leaves grow. Every part of the plant, from the bulb to the seeds, is edible and quite delicious, but the best reasons to use fennel in your cooking are hidden beneath its surface.

Four Healthy Reasons to Eat Fennel

Fennel is full of beneficial nutrients including vitamin C, fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, niacin, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper. It also provides these other good-for-you benefits:

  • Amazing Phytonutrients: The phytonutrients in fennel -- rutin, quercitin, anethole and more -- have been found to reduce inflammation, help prevent cancer and protect animal livers from damage caused by chemicals.

  • Antioxidant Protection: The fennel bulb is loaded with vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect your body from free radical damage, is antimicrobial and helps keep your immune system functioning effectively.

  • Fiber: Fennel is a good source of fiber, which may help to reduce cholesterol levels and remove cancer-causing toxins from your colon.

  • Folate: Fennel is also a good source of folate, a B vitamin that helps convert the dangerous homocysteine molecule (which can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke) into a harmless compound.

Fennel Has Been Enjoyed Since Ancient Times

Today fennel is usually associated with Italian foods and is cultivated in the United States, France, India (where it's used as an after-dinner breath freshener and digestive aid) and Russia, but in ancient times it was grown in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Far East.

Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds make a rich addition to soups, salads, stews and sauces.

The Greeks called fennel "marathron," because it grew on the battlefield of the same name, and revered it for its medicinal and mythic purposes. Meanwhile, in medieval times, fennel was used to ward off witchcraft and evil, and in Puritan times fennel seeds were called "meeting seeds," and were chewed during gatherings.

How to Use Fennel

The bulb, stalks and leaves of fennel can all be used in cooking, and it's simple to prepare. Simply cut the stalks from the bulb, remove the leaves and chop into the size you need. The bulb and stalks make an excellent side dish sautéed with onions, or they can be added to soups, stews and even used raw on sandwiches and salads. Fennel leaves work best as a seasoning for fish, plain yogurt, soups and stews.

If you've never tried fennel before, or if you've been looking for a new fennel dish, the following recipes are simple to prepare and hard to resist!

Roasted Fennel


  • 2 fennel bulbs, stalks cut off, bulbs sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Rub just enough olive oil over the fennel to coat. Sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar, also to coat.
  3. Line baking dish with silpat or aluminum foil and lay out pieces of fennel
  4. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the fennel is cooked through and beginning to caramelize.

Shaved Fennel Salad


  • 1 fennel bulb, shaved paper thin with a mandoline or meat slicer
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley
  • 2 Tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese


  1. Mix all ingredients together and serve.

Recommended Reading

14 Fruits and Vegetables That Provide the Best Protection Against Arthritis

Nine Uncommon "Green Leafy Vegetables" Worth Trying


The World's Healthiest Foods

Simply Recipes

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