Foeniculum Officinale / Vulgare.
Parts used: Leaves, flowers, seeds, stem, roots.
The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are widely used in many of the culinary traditions of the world. Fennel pollen is the most potent form of fennel, but also the most expensive. Dried fennel seed is an aromatic, anise-flavoured spice, brown or green in colour when fresh, slowly turning a dull grey as the seed ages. For cooking, green seeds are optimal. The bulb is a crisp, hardy root vegetable and may be sauteed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw. Fennel is also used as a flavouring in some natural toothpaste. Fennel features prominently in Mediterranean cuisine, where bulbs and fronds are used, both raw and cooked, in side dishes, salads, pastas, vegetable dishes such as artichoke dishes in Greece, and risottos. Fennel is one of the most important spices in Kashmiri Pandit cooking.
It is an essential ingredient of the Assamese / Bengali / Oriya spice mixture panch phoron and in Chinese five-spice powders. In many parts of Pakistan and India roasted fennel seeds are consumed as an after-meal digestive and breath freshener. Farming communities also chew on fresh sprigs of green fennel seeds. Fennel leaves are used as leafy green vegetables either by themselves or mixed with other vegetables, cooked to be served as part of a meal, in some parts of India. Many egg, fish, and other dishes employ fresh or dried fennel leaves. Florence fennel is a key ingredient in some Italian and German salads, often tossed with chicory and avocado, or it can be braised and served as a warm side dish. It may be blanched or marinated, or cooked in risotto; it also makes a fantastic cheese sauce with feta.
Florence fennel was one of the three main herbs used in the preparation of absinthe, an alcoholic mixture which originated as a medicinal elixir in Switzerland and became, by the late 19th century, a popular alcoholic drink in France and other countries. Fennel itself is known to be a stimulant. It is warming, dry, pungent and sweet. It is a mild tonic for the kidneys and is a diuretic.
Historical / Myths & Legends:
The word fennel developed from the Middle English fenel or fenyl. This came from the Old English fenol or finol, which in turn came from the Latin feniculum or foeniculum, the diminutive of fenum or faenum, meaning “hay”. The Latin word for the plant was ferula, which is now used as the genus name of a related plant. As Old English finule it is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in the 10th century.
In Ancient Greek, fennel was called marathon. John Chadwick notes that this word is the origin of the place name Marathon (meaning “place of fennel”), site of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. However, Chadwick wryly notes that he has “not seen any fennel growing there now”.
Also, it was from the giant fennel, Ferula Communis, that the Bacchanalian wands of the god Dionysus and his followers were said to have come. In Greek mythology Prometheus met Zeus in a poppy field. They killed an ox and Prometheus tricked Zeus by giving him bones instead of meat. As punishment Zeus took fire away from mankind. Prometheus stole the fire back in a fennel stem and gave it back.
Holistic / Spiritual Properties:
Fennel is an important magical herb that has been used for centuries. It can be used internally as a tea or sprigs can be carried on the person in sachets or charms for clairvoyance, longevity, fertility, healing, love, purification, and strength. It is also used in this manner to prevent negativity and provide protection from harmful spells. In spells, Fennel can be used alone or with other like herbs for courage, divination, cleansing, strength, energy, meditation, virility, psychic protection. Hung in doorways or windows, Fennel protects from evil and sorcery, and placed in keyholes, it protects against the spirits of the dead. Grown around the outside of the home, Fennel provides protection from evil influences and negativity.