Posted in Kafevend Blog
Fennel, or Foeniculum vulgare, has long been used by humans. Texts from Ancient Greece show their knowledge of the plant, and it even features in a particularly famous legend from Greek mythology. The Titan Prometheus is said to have stolen fire back from the Gods using a fennel stalk to return it to humanity. The word marathon is Greek for fennel, and the Battle of Marathon is named as such due to the plain of fennels on which it was fought.
Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean, but since then has done well in growing in places all over the globe such as Asia, Australia and the United States- the latter two even consider it to be a weed, which goes to show how well it has taken to other areas.
Many parts of the fennel plant have a place in the culinary repetoires of various cultures. The Florence fennel is a cultivated version of the plant that has been adapted to produce a large bulb, which is used as a vegetable in cooking. Fennel leaves can cooked or used in salads, and are a main ingredient of a popular egg omelette called ijjeh made in Syria and Lebanon.
The seeds are perhaps the most used part of fennel however. The plant in general has a mild anise flavour thanks to the chemical anethole, but the seeds in particular are used to impart the flavour into dishes in various countries in Asia and the Middle East. They are even used in much the same way as after dinner mints are here, serving as an after meal snack and breath freshener in countries like India and Pakistan. Of course, fennel seeds have found their way into tea, both as a potential spice in masala chai and by itself as a tisane.