“In 490 B.C. in a fennel field some 26 miles from Athens, the Greeks defeated the Persians. An Anthenian runner bearing this welcome news raced back to town. Since then, the length of a marathon race has remained the same as from the fennel field into town, or 26 miles and 385 yards. The Greek name for fennel is marathon.” The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood
Often we think of fennel seeds that are often used in the sausage found on most pizzas. They can also be found in a variety of dishes, especially Greek recipes. In Indian restaurants it is common to find them in small dishes found near the exit door. In this situation, they are eaten at the end of a meal to assist in digestion.
The bulb is a different variety of fennel used as a vegetable. Mostly found in Mediterranean cooking, it is now available in most markets in the United States and is plentiful and fresh this time of year. I enjoy the licorice taste of the raw vegetable. It really adds to the flavor of a fresh green salad. You can cut it very thin to enhance a variety of salads from a mixed green to a salad made mostly of fresh fennel and grapefruit. In addition the fennel bulb can be baked or added to a dish like the chicken recipe this month. When cooked, the strong licorice flavor diminishes quite a bit, leaving a subtle richness in its place.
Generally speaking fennel seeds not only aid in digestion but help in reducing gas and spasms in the digestive system and aids in eliminating phlegm. They are loaded with phytonutrients and contain a great deal of antioxidants so consequently have many health benefits.
If you have never used it, give it a try. You too might find it a wonderful addition to your regular vegetable repertoire!