Is fennel a vegetable or a fruit? I had to look it up and the answer is: neither. Though fennel looks similar to celery, it’s considered an herb. It has a distinctive licorice flavour, and may be eaten dried, raw or cooked. In the Middle Ages, on Midsummer’s night, it was hung fennel over doorways as protection from evil spirits. And ancient Romans believed it increased strength, fortitude and longevity.
I think it makes a lovely summer slaw when paired with apples, nuts, and a lime vinaigrette, piled up next to a juicy beef burger. Yum!
I was first introduced to fennel through one of my favorite cooking competitions: Masterchef Australia. I was intrigued by the many ways it was used, in both sweet and savoury dishes, so I decided to try it out. Last week, I picked up a box labelled “Fennel Tea” at The Bulk Barn, as something new to try!
There are a number of benefits to teas made with fennel seed, the most noted being as an effective aid with digestion. It helps the smooth muscles of your gastrointestinal system to relax, thereby reducing bloating, stomach cramps and ah….flatulence, all of which sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome, colitis or Crohn’s disease, would greatly appreciate! It may also help regulate blood sugar and clear mucous. And some studies also found fennel mimics estrogen so may assist with inflammation and PMS symptoms too. For that reason, pregnant and breastfeeding moms should avoid it.
I found it reminiscent of chamomile tea with a grassy note, but the delicate natural licorice flavour provided a strong balance, making this a warm and refreshing beverage. The colouring is light, so avoid steeping it for a long time to attain more colour. I suspect, like green tea, that it requires a lower temperature and a shorter steeping time than black teas. The price is right, at $1.50 for 20 sachets, and I would be happy to drink this soothing, caffeine-free alternative in the evening. It’s Fenn-ominal!