Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Plant Profile: Fennel

By Nina Berryman

As you may or may not remember, in the first issue of the newsletter, we included brief paragraphs about ourselves. In my blurb I said if I could be any vegetable it would bulb fennel. Why? You may ask. I must admit it is very difficult choosing which vegetable best personifies yourself (give it a try), and so the exact reasons why I chose fennel are difficult to put in words. Perhaps this article will shed some light on the matter.

Bulb fennel is one of three varieties of fennel which all belong to the same species, Foeniculum vulgare. One variety is a leafy herb of which the leaves and herbs are used in baked goods, teas and flavoring in candy. There is also the Sicilian fennel which has tender stems that are eaten like celery. Lastly, there is bulb fennel, also known as Florence fennel, or finocchio. This is what we grow. This type of fennel is biennial (although I have seen it produce in seeds in its first year before). Fennel is in the Apiaceae family, along with carrots and dill. The ancient Greeks grew it for food, medicine and insect repellent. Fennel tea was served just before important battles to instill courage in warriors. It is also said that the ancient Greeks believed it had a slimming effect on overweight people, and that may be why it was called “marathon,” from the word “maraino” meaning to grow thin. Today, fennel is used to relieve abdominal cramps and flatulence.

Sources: Dawson, Adele C. Herbs Partners in Life. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, Vermont. 2000.
Ashworth, Suzanne. Seed to Seed. Seed Savers Exchange Inc., Iowa. 2002.

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