Thursday, February 4, 2010

Easy Medicinal Herbs - Fennel

My next herb to talk about is Fennel or Foeniculum vulgare.  Did you notice how much it looks like dill?  I often have people ask me if I'm growing dill in my herb garden when it is in fact fennel. The fennel leaves are quite a bit thinner than dill, so you should be able to recognize it.  Fennel and dill have been known to cross-pollinate so it's best not to plant them near each other.

Plant fennel seeds in the fall for easy and early germination as soon as spring arrives. If you missed out on the fall planting, you can also sow seeds in the spring.  Fennel requires a rich, well-drained soil and does not like clay. Keep your seeds (which are actually the fruit of the plant) moist for two weeks until the leaves appear, but avoid overwatering.  You might want to plant it at the back of your garden;  it can grow up to 5 feet tall.

Fennel is another herb that is good for indigestion, heartburn, and bloating in adults, and colic in babies.  Use a bag of cool fennel tea for sore and tired eyes. 

The root and seeds can both be used for medicinal and culinary uses, but I find the seeds easy to harvest and store.  I always have a jar of fennel seeds handy in my kitchen; I love their licorice, anise-like flavor.  Use the chopped leaves in a salad or the seeds in the dressing. Sprinkle ground seeds over grilled meats. Add crushed seeds to breads. 

Chewing fennel seeds will depress your appetite, so it works well for a weight loss aid. Drinking brewed fennel tea made from lightly crushed seeds is also a diuretic, and because of this, can be helpful in hypertension (of course, be sure to consult your physician on this one.)

Stay tuned to see what's coming next in Easy Medicinal Herbs.

Don't forget to visit An Herbal Bedfellow for healthy recipes made with herbs, and also my newest blog:
Bits, Tales, and Yarns - my newest writing adventure.


comfrey cottages said...

yum fennel! nice article jane marie:)

Meredith said...

How useful it is! You've made me want to put fennel in my garden. Now where to put something 5 feet tall?? ;)

I've seen garden catalog listings for "bronze fennel." Is this purely decorative, or does it have the same qualities as the original herb, I wonder?

Jane Marie said...

Meredith, Bronze leaf fennel is the herb that I was writing about. It is a perennial but treated like an annual.
Its smaller cousin is finochio fennel and is grown for the bulb, not the seeds or leaves, as a roasting or salad vegetable.