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Fennel

 

BENEFITS

Leaves are a good source of beta carotene and vitamin C.

 

DRAWBACKS

The oil in fennel seeds can irritate skin.

 

Filling, yet low in calories, fennel is an ideal food for people trying to lose weight. Although it has a distinctly different flavor, its stalks can be mistaken for celery. Both vegetables are members of the parsley plant family, and like celery, fennel contains fiber and is low in calories a 1-cup serving has only 25 calories. Fennel is much more nutritious than celery, however; a 1-cup serving is a good source of potassium and fiber and contains some vitamin C, iron, calcium, and folate; the leaves contain beta carotene and vitamin C.

 

The sweet, licoricelike flavor of fennel is similar to that of anise. The licorice flavor goes especially well with fish; try baking fish on a bed of fennel stalks. All parts of the plants are edible, and it can be prepared in many ways: raw in salads or braised or sauteed as a side dish. Stuffed bulbs are a flavorful vegetarian entree; the chopped leaves make a colorful and nutritious garnish for other vegetable dishes.

 

Physicians through the ages have prescribed fennel for a variety of ailments: to stimulate milk production in nursing mothers; aid digestion and prevent bad breath; treat kidney stones, gout, liver and lung disorders. Ancient healers prescribed the seeds to prevent obesity; modern herbalists advocate fennel tea as a diet aid. Aromatic fennel seeds are indeed one of our oldest spices; they also are used to make a refreshing tea that is said to alleviate bloating, flatulence, and other intestinal problems.

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