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The “Goblet of Life”: Fennel

There’s nothing like the pleasure of simple comfort food in winter. How about adding tasty and nutritional fennel to your warming soups and stews this season?

Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet. Its bulb imparts a special “anise" like sweet flavor to a

dish. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Fennel is a stomach smoother, it can ease coughs and colds, help to regulate hormones and to relieve water retention and bloating.

Like many of its fellow spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin and anethole (that reduces inflammation). In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C that is needed for the proper function of the immune system. The bulbs have very good levels of heart-friendly electrolyte, potassium. 100 g provides 9% of daily-recommended levels. It helps reduce blood pressure and rate of heartbeats by countering effects of sodium.

American poet Henry Longfellow was so impressed with the healing properties of fennel and its believed ability to strengthen eyesight that he wrote this poem called “The Goblet of Life” (in 1842!):

Above the lowly plants it towers,

The fennel, with its yellow flowers,

And in an earlier age than ours

Was gifted with the wondrous powers,

Lost vision to restore.

It gave new strength, and fearless mood;

And gladiators, fierce and rude,

Mingled it in their daily food;

And he who battled and subdued,

A wreath of fennel wore.

Then in Life's goblet freely press,

The leaves that give it bitterness,

Nor prize the colored waters less,

For in thy darkness and distress

New light and strength they give!

Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver for a delicious Winter Fennel Salad:

½ clove garlic, peeled

3 anchovies

200 ml fat-free natural yoghurt

1 lemon, finely grated zest of

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ small loaf of rustic bread

2 lugs olive oil

4 little gem lettuces

2 handfuls watercress

1 bulb fennel

250 g Halloumi cheese , cut into 12 slices

1 pomegranate/ or rehydrated cranberries.

For the dressing, finely chop the garlic and anchovies. Mix in the yoghurt, then the zest and juice of the lemon, and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Tear the bread into rough pieces of about an inch or so and scatter into a roasting tin. Drizzle the bread with a little olive oil then toss with a good pinch of sea salt and bake for 10 minutes or until crunchy.

Trim the bottoms of the little gems then break up each one, keeping the leaves whole. Give the watercress and lettuce leaves a quick wash, then dry in a salad spinner and lay on a large serving plate. Cut the top off the fennel and hang on to the feathery parts. Trim the bottom of the bulb and discard the scruffy outer leaves. Cut the bulb in half and slice as thinly as possible from the root to the tip, then add to the rest of the leaves. Next, fry the slices of halloumi on both sides in a little olive oil until golden, then drain on kitchen paper. Add the halloumi and croutons to the serving plate. Season, give the whole lot a gentle toss, then drizzle over the yoghurt dressing. Chop the fennel tops and bash the pomegranate to get the seeds out, then scatter the fennel and seeds over the salad.

Enjoy your fennel this season!


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