Fennel is native to Southern Europe and grown extensively all over Europe, Middle-East, China, India, and Turkey. This herbaceous plant reaches up to 2 meters (about 6 feet) in height with deep green feathery (lacy) leaves and bears golden-yellow flowers in umbels. In general, fennel seeds harvested when their seed heads turn light-brown. The seeds, which closely resemble that of anise seeds in appearance, feature oblong or curved (comma) shape, about 3-4 mm long, light brown with fine vertical stripes over their surface.
In general, fennels are harvested during early hours of the day to avoid loss of seeds in the field. As in caraway, its stems stacked until they were dry and then threshed, processed before dispatching to the markets.Fennel bulb (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum), used as a vegetable, is closely related to seeding fennel. It has grown for its anise-flavored sweet taste fronds in many parts of Mediterranean region.Fennel seeds are the dried seed of the fennel herb, and look like cumin seeds, only greener. They have an aniseed flavour and a warm, sweet aroma. They can be used on their own or in spice mixes such as Chinese five-spice powder and Indian panch phoran.
Health benefits of fennel seeds
- Fennel symbolizes longevity, courage, and strength. In addition to its use as medicinal values, fennel has many health benefiting nutrients, essential compounds, antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
- Fennel seeds indeed contain numerous flavonoid anti-oxidants like kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds function as powerful antioxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus offer protection from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
- Like in caraway, fennel seeds also are a rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 39.8 g of fiber. Much of this roughage is metabolically inert insoluble fiber, which helps increase the bulk of the food by absorbing water throughout the digestive system and easing constipation problems.
- Further, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon. It thus helps lower serum LDL cholesterol levels. Together with flavonoid anti-oxidants, fiber composition of fennel helps protect the colon mucosa from cancers.
- Fennel seeds compose of health-benefiting volatile essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol, and cineole. These active principles in the fennel are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.
- Fennel seeds concentrated source of minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. Copper is essential for the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. The human body uses manganese as a cofactor for the important antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- Furthermore, fennel seeds indeed are the storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin-A, vitamin-E, vitamin-C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and niacin particularly are concentrated in these seeds.
Fennel seeds exude anise-like sweet fruity aroma when rubbed between fingers. Its herb parts, including tender growing tips, root-bulb, dried stalks, and seeds are used extensively in a wide variety of cuisines all over the world. In order to keep their fragrance and flavor intact, fennel is generally ground just before preparing dishes, or whole seeds gently toasted under light-heat before using them in a recipe.