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Fantastic Fennel

fennel-plant-aquarium-decor-flower-1807035

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, is a celery-like winter vegetable with a licorice-like flavor. Your first taste may have you thinking… hmm, interesting. I encourage you to venture on with this veggie as fennel has health benefits you might want to indulge in.

Fennel is an herb available in the Autumn. It has feathery covered stalks, think dill like, coming off of an oval shaped bulb. You can eat the entire herb plant.  Go easy on the “feathers” in soup because too much can be off putting for some consumers. I take most of the feathery parts and tincture them in 80 – 100 proof vodka as Fennel tincture can be used for digestive health.

Fennel is sweet in flavor, a bit like anise, and has a crisp texture similar to celery. Chopping the raw fennel bulb and stalks makes a nice addition to raw salads of the green leafy variety and/or pasta salads loaded with veggies. Anywhere you would add in raw veggies, fennel can bring an intriguing taste difference. Try it slivered very finely into a grated veggie slaw.

Stir fry the fennel, gently, and add to soups, stews, and stir fries. The slivers, quickly stir fried, can be served solo as a side dish. Add butter when warm to melt it – or olive oil if preferred, salt and pepper, and enjoy.

Also try adding fennel to Asian noodle dishes. The link is to the Thai noodle soup recipe from Autumn 2022. I sometimes skip the bone broth or veggie stock in the recipe and make more of a saucy noodle dish. I have added this option’s instructions at the bottom of the Thai Noodle soup recipe page.

Fennel is used in many cultures and cultural health systems as medicine.  In traditional herbal medicine, fennel is used to treat a range of symptoms and health concerns. Fennel is used to calm the common cold and irritating coughs. Many cultures see it’s magic in healing the digestive tract and it is used for gas, cramping, colic, constipation and diarrhea, and for liver issues. Fennel is called upon in more complicated health concerns such as high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, kidney ailments, and respiratory healing.

In the science of Ayurvedic medicine, fennel has warming properties and is used medicinally to balance vata, pitta, and kapha constitutions. It is also used to nourish the digestive tract, the eyes, the brain, and one’s respiratory health.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses fennel to relieve chest congestion and to increase breast milk flow in nursing mothers. It is also used in teas and medicine for soothing sore throats and skin irritations as well as its seemingly universal use of relieving digestive complaints.

Fennel is high in vitamins, minerals, and bioflavonoids. It is rich in phenolic acids, tannins, coumarins, and a substance called hydroxycinnamic acids. These nutrients contribute to its value as nourishing food and medicine.

If you have never tried fennel, I invite you to buy a bulb and give it a try in one of the many options above or try this soup recipe below:

Roasted Tomato Fennel Soup

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut into wide slivers
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters
  • 5-6 tomatoes, cut in half or ¼ if large tomatoes (adjust number used if large tomatoes)
  • 2 red peppers cut into quarters
  • 6-8 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil OR some fat that makes you happy
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Leaves from 4-5 fresh thyme stalks (remove leaves from stalk) or ½ – 3/4 tsp dried
  • 4–5-inch fresh rosemary stalk, remove leaves
  • Unrefined sea salt or Himalayan to your taste
  • Fresh ground gourmet peppercorns
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or serve with red chili flakes at table for use if desired
  • 3 – 4 cups veggie stock or bone broth
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
Field Day available on the Co-op shelves. Kettle & Fire is a special order, group buy club, item.

Roasting & Soup Creation Directions

  1. Arrange fennel, tomatoes, onion, and red peppers onto baking sheet that has sides
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  3. Roast in 325F oven for 45-60 minutes, flipping over veggies half way through. Check every 15 minutes or so to see if the veggies qualify as roasted enough.
  4. After roasting put all veggies, herbs, spices, soup stock, and garlic into a blender. Use 1 cup of the stock to swish around in the baking dish to capture and use all the juices from roasting. Clean the roasting pan with a rubber spatula into the blender.
  5. Blend to a consistency you like.
  6. Serve immediately while hot or very gently keep warm in a pot on the stove. Preferably no boiling.
  7. Add a dollop of sour cream to the bowl of soup, if desired.

I made this soup for dinner tonight and here’s how I modified as the need arose because of my lack of exact ingredients:

I was out of olive oil. Shocking yes but would be more shocking if I said I was out of butter.

I used butter. I thought about using pumpkin seed oil but it has a low smoke point / heat tolerance.

I did not have balsamic vinegar so I used herbed, apple cider vinegar.

I definitely used more of both the vinegar and the butter than the recipe calls for. I would say I used 3 Tbsp vinegar and 3-4 tablespoons melted butter.

I made closer to ½ a batch as that is the amount of veggies I had available. So based upon halving the veggie amount, I used a lot more butter & vinegar than the recipe amounts above.

I would advise using 2 roasting pans and putting ½ the tomatoes and ½ the other veggies into each pan. The tomatoes keep things juicy while roasting.

I used the dried herbs in the recipe but I also added fresh basil, as pictured in the image above.

Another roasted soup idea:

As I was enjoying this for dinner tonight, I decided my next roasted veggie soup would be carrot and onion. I will cream the roasted carrots and onions in goat’s milk. Coconut milk would be wonderful as well. Add curry powder to taste and garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro.

This will be an easy Autumn soup to make and pair with warm bread, cheese, roasted chicken or lamb, add chickpeas to it… use your imagination and culinary creativity.

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