The health benefits of fennel

Dougal Forrest and Hannah Vollmerhouse, from Forrest Organics, with some lovely fennel.

Story by Suzanne Staples

One of my favourite plants is fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) so I was extremely pleased to find these lovely people, Dougal and Hannah, from Forrest Organics, selling their wonderful home grown fennel plants at the New Brighton Farmer’s Market recently.

Fennel is a hardy perennial herb and can be grown in most conditions, but likes dry soil. The seeds are the most medicinal part, although the whole plant (stalks and bulb) are beneficial and delicious. Its healing properties are well known for gripe and colic, especially in children. The roasted seeds can be consumed after meals to promote good digestion and to calm the nerves, and are excellent when added with cumin and coriander as a cooling spice mix. Make a tea by pouring half a litre of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoons of the crushed seeds and let it sit for 10 minutes. This lovely aniseed-tasting brew will help with many digestive problems and also helps to cleanse the liver. The same mixture can be used to help bring down mother’s milk and when added to barley water it makes a nourishing drink for nursing mothers, and for the elderly with poor nutrition. Fennel juice can be used for chronic coughs when taken regularly, and the soft green tender leaves are great for garnishing eggs and fish, helping with protein digestion.

In medieval times, fennel was added to other herbs and hung over doorways on Midsummer’s Eve to ward off evil spirits. I prefer to eat it, and one of my favourite ways to consume fennel is to bake the larger bulbs in a hot oven, slice them through and place the slices in a baking dish with olive oil, a little butter, pepper and salt. They are delicious with any protein and will definitely help your digestion by cleansing the blood and the liver.

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