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Fennel Seeds

Fennel yields both a herb and a spice. All plant parts are edible: roots, stalks and leaves, with the spice coming from the dried seeds. A native to the Mediterranean , Fennel is an ancient and common plant known to the ancient Greeks and spread throughout Europe by Imperial Rome. It is also grown in India.

Culinary Uses

  • As a herb, fennel leaves are used in French and Italian cuisine's in sauces for fish and in mayonnaise.
  • In Italy fennel is also used to season pork roasts and spicy sausages, especially the Florentine salami finocchiona. It is traditionally considered one of the best herbs for fish dishes.
  • The English use fennel seeds in almost all fish dishes, especially as a court bouillon for poaching fish and seafood. It is used to flavour breads, cakes and confectionery.
  • It is an ingredient of Chinese Five Spices and of some curry powders.
  • Several liquors are flavoured with fennel, including fennouillette, akvavit, gin and was used in distilling absinthe.

Attributed Medicinal Properties

In the first century, Pliny noted that after snakes had shed their skins, they ate fennel to restore their sight. It has since been used as a wash for eyestrain and irritations. Chinese and Hindus used it as a snake bite remedy. It is carminative, a weak diuretic and mild stimulant. The oil is added to purgative medication to prevent intestinal colic. Fennel was once used to stimulate lactation. It allays hunger and was thought to be a cure for obesity in Renaissance Europe . It should not be used in high dosages as it causes muscular spasms and hallucinations.

The major constituents of Fennel, which include the terpenoid anethole, are found in the volatile oil. Anethole and other terpenoids inhibit spasms in smooth muscles, such as those in the intestinal tract, and this is thought to contribute to fennel's use as a carminative (gas-relieving and gastrointestinal tract cramp-relieving agent). Related compounds to anethole may have mild estrogenic actions, although this has not been proven in humans. Fennel is also thought to possess diuretic (increase in urine production), choleretic (increase in production of bile), pain-reducing, fever-reducing, and anti-microbial actions. The seeds are used as a flavoring agent in many herbal medicines, and to help disperse flatulence. The seeds, and roots, also help to open obstructions of the liver, spleen & gall bladder, and to ease painful swellings, in addition to helping with yellow jaundice, the gout and occasional cramps.

Other Names

Common Fennel, Florence Fennel, Large Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Wild Fennel, Large Cumin, Sweet Cumin
French: Fenouil
German: Fenchel
Greek: Marathon
Italian: Finocchio
Spanish: Hinojo
Chinese: Wooi Heung
Indian: Barisaunf, Madhurika, Saunf
Indonesian: Adas
Malaysian: Jintan Manis

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