Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) Is a herbaceous plant native to Asia Minor. The Foeniculum vulgare, wild fennel, also called fennel, is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Umbrella family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Rosidae Subclass, Apiales Order, Apiaceae Family, Foeniculum Genus and F. vulgare Species.
The first term of the binomial comes from the Latin with which the fennel was indicated; It comes from foenum = hay, for the subtlety of the leaves and for its intense aromatic odor or perhaps because it was once used as a forage. The second term means that the plant is quite widespread (vulgar = common), to distinguish it from other rare species.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Wild fennel is a typical Mediterranean plant. It is most commonly found in denser populations in southern regions and islands, from baseline up to approx. 1000 m of altitude. It prefers the sunny, unspoilt, dry and pebbled places; It is also found in grassy areas, at the foot of the dry walls and on the edge of the countryside.
In the description we must make the distinction between the wild fennel varieties from the varieties of orticultural production (sweet).
Wild fennel is a spontaneous, perennial plant, branched, up to 2 m high. It has leaves recalling hay (hence the name foeniculum), green and produces in the summer umbrellas of small yellow flowers. Following are the fruits (achens), first greens and then greyish. Wild fennel uses sprouts, leaves, flowers and fruits (improperly called “seeds”).
Cultured (or sweet) fennel is an annual or biennial plant with rooting root. It reaches 60-80 cm in height. The large, white clumsy sheath is used to grow at the base.
The fennel is widely cultivated in the gardens for the production of clump, a compact structure made up of all the foliage sheaths, which are whiteish, fleshy, closely tied to each other around a tiny conical stem, directly at the level of the ground.
Its white color is given by the technique of attachment: it is a chamfering and is carried out on a regular basis during the development of the clump or at least two weeks before the harvest.
Harvesting takes place in all seasons, according to production areas. It is suitable for any medium soil mixture with organic matter. Plants are arranged in rows and spaced about 25 cm apart. Harvesting takes place after about 90 days of sowing. It requires frequent and abundant irrigation and prefers a temperate climate of the Mediterranean type.
Harvesting the wild fennel flower occurs in Italy as soon as the flower is “open”, usually from mid-August to late September. The flower can be used fresh or can be dried outdoors, in the light but far from the direct sunlight, which would evaporate the essential oils. Diachens can be harvested at the beginning of autumn, when flower transformation took place. The “beards” or leaves and the soft shoots can be picked from spring to late autumn.
The common distinction between female fennel and male fennel is only formal: the first is elongated and the second is of round shape. The so-called male fennel, which is more appreciated in terms of the product because it is less fibrous and more fleshy, is obtained through the competition of environmental factors associated with the nature of the soil and its superficial arrangement and adequate crop technique.
Uses and Traditions –
Foeniculum vulgare contains: anethole (which depends on its aroma), fencone, anisic ketone, dipinene, canfene, fellandrene, dipentene and methyl acetoacid.
It is emmenagogo, diuretic, carminative, antiemetic, aromatic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, hepatic tonic. It is used for those with digestive problems, apharyphosis, vomiting and breastfeeding to reduce air bubbles in children. It is known that a herbal tea made with the seeds of this plant is very effective in the treatment of abdominal swelling from apharyphage.
It also fights the fermentative processes of the large intestine, and thus decreases the intestinal gas. So it can be useful to reduce the painful component of irritable colon syndrome. At high doses (concentrated in essential oil extracted from seeds, the active ingredients contained therein may have hallucinogenic effects.
Foeniculum vulgare, rather than as a vegetable, is used in the kitchen as a flavor, because of the essential ingredients that give smells and strong flavors to the dishes.
In particular, the foliage of the wild fennel, appropriately blended with the older leaves, is used to give “tones” to mesticates, to season the “pasta sardi” (own of Palermitano) or the “pasta cu maschio” (own of Catanese ) Or they must be added to special soups, which is typical of the dried beans called “maccu” spread in various provinces but above all in the province of Agrigento; Hence a popular saying: be honeycombs and fennel, referring to things and people who come in perfect harmony. Umbrella sticks have a characteristic gastronomic location: they are immersed in the brine in which the olives are preserved, giving them their typical aroma. The fruits of the wild fennel fall into the spices that are added to sausage or pastry art; In this case they are mainly used as stuffing in the so-called “cimini”, a kind of prettified sugar confetti, in which the most expensive seeds of other umbrellas such as Cumino (Carum carvi L.) should be used instead. The Anice (Pimpinella anisum L.) and Tragoselino (Pimpinella anisoides Brig.)
In Italy, the use of Wild Fennel is widespread throughout the territory, with a greater or lesser incidence in relation to the greater or lesser presence of the plant. In Piedmont, as in neighboring France, it is used to season the grilled fish with the so-called “fennel oil”, prepared by placing some beef stems in infusion with olive oil. Another custom of this region is to add a pinch of wild fennel fruit to the cooking water of “chestnut ballots” (ie boiled with peel) for the purpose of flavoring them. In Lombardy, wild fennel sprouts are added, in addition to mestikatze, to raw salads as well as flavorings. Instead, the fruits are used in confectionery to prepare a typical local dessert, the “crushed fennel”. In Veneto the leaves, sprigs and umbrellas are dried in the shade (Wild Fennel is one of the few aromatic herbs that strengthen their scent) to be used as a flavor in the kitchen in the months when the plant is resting; They are used in fish dishes, meat, potatoes, salads, olives, etc. In Tuscany sprouts are used to season soups, especially those with “beans to the eye”, and for the meats read. Dry stems are thrown on the grate on which grilled fish is cooked. The fruits of the wild fennel have a wide variety of uses in this region: they add to the typical pork “frogs” and to the characteristic “frantois soup” (COURSES AND PAGNI, 1979b); Mixed with crushed beef or pork; They also spread on the forms of bread, as is done in our territory with the seeds of Sesame (the so-called giuggiulena) (NERI, 1990). In S. Gimignano a type of wild boar salami is prepared, among which the ingredients are the fruits of wild fennel. In the Marches, leaves, stems and fruits are basic ingredients to prepare the classic “potacchio” (or “potaggio”), a chicken or rabbit stew. In Lazio, wild fennel fruits are irreplaceable in the “porchetta” preparations, obtained from dairy pigs (lattonzoli), cooked whole baked and filled with various drugs. In Calabria the wild fennel enters the composition of the singular seasoning called “sardella” or “rosamarina”, which is made with whiting of fish, chilli and fruits of wild fennel.
The use of wild fennel is also spread outside Italy; For example, in various Mediterranean countries, the fruits serve to aromatize black olives and dried figs, while in continental Europe they, along with those of the Cumin, are used to flavor sauces.
From the fall to the spring, the new foliage is collected, and from the summer to the autumn the flowering stems with umbrellas and the fruits (mistakenly known as “seeds”).
Many of the medicinal properties attributed in the past to the Wild Fennel, of which the leaves, fruits and root are used in herbal teas and decoctions: antiscorbutic, antispasmodic, aromatic, aperitif, carminative, colagogues, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogues, expectorants, Galactogoges, as Galen and Dioscoride attest, and, if not enough, purgatives, vermifuges and vulnerable.
Already Pliny, in the first century after Christ, writes that Fennel is used, dry, to aromatize a large number of dishes.
Pliny reiterates, with irony, the curiosity of his time: for a pleasant breath, for example, it was advisable to rub the teeth with mixed mouse ash with honey and roots of Fennel.
Bartolomeo Scappi, secret cook of Pope Pius V, in his monumental Opera, edited in 1570, recalls the flower of Finocchio “To bake (skewer) testicles of Vitello, d’Agnello, Toro, Bufaletto, Cignale, Cervo, And of other quadruped animals … “, to prepare veiled and cooked veal eyes (sic) with” lard bits or pork throat … “and also” To cook beef in different ways “.
Some recipes by Maestro Martino, famous cook of the Patriarch of Aquileia, lived in the second half of the fifteenth century, remind the Fennel “to bake bechafichi when they are fat”, for calves of veal and “to do bird figs, or Of pollack, or of porch, or of other animal. ”
An Egyptian text of the second century contains a recipe for a stomach painter with pigeon and goose meat, beans, wheat, chicory, dagger and frog.
Hippocrates prescribes seeds of Fennel if, for women, milk is lost.
The Syrian physician Mesuè is assigned the recipe of fox lung locusts, beneficial to those who “have their lungs shed, are consumed, & tabidi (afflicted by affections)”, among which the ingredients are the fruits of Fennel beyond, of course, The lungs of dried foxes!
Santa Ildegarda of Bingen, which was Benedictine benediction of the twelfth century, prescribes fennel juice for the eyes, Finocchio’s ointment for swollen and painful testicles and “seeds” of Finocchio to curb the madness of wine in man.
Pietro de Crescenzi, in his 14th century Liber ruralium commodorum, recommends “water in which he is cooked with mushrooms, and fennel seed, for the same part, in good quantity” to soothe the gall bladder pain caused by “windiness”.
Thresor de Santé, 1607, recommends eating pears, which are “suckling”, cooked on the fennel with fennel, aniseed and coriander, over a good glass of old wine.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Pharmacopoeia Londinensis mentions the roots of Fennel for their aperitif and carminative properties.
The Anglo-Saxons in ancient times also attributed magical powers to the Wild Fennel and used to put it in horseshoes to keep fleas away.
The term “let’s end up” comes from the habit of the wine cellars to offer hometown cloves to those who came to buy the wine stored in the barrels. The clump in fact contains aromatic substances that make it tasty even a poor quality wine or close to aquaculture.
Methods of Preparation –
The fruit of the Fennel, a “diachenio” often improperly called seed, is traditionally used to aromatize the brine of the olives and the water in which the chestnuts are bled; To prepare several sauces; For certain types of bread and biscuits or even chewing them to smell the breath.
The inflorescences are used for baking pork.
The leaves, but only if they are young, serve as much to decorate the dishes as well as to flavor, pleasantly but decently, salads, cooked vegetables, soups, fish dishes and more.
With fennel fruits and dry white wine, some say the Port is preferable, it gets a good digestive, good for hiccups and meteorism, but above all indicated as aphrodisiac and in cases of frigidity!
Always with the fruits, alcohol and sugar you can prepare the elixir to fennel.
The infusion of fruits of Fennel, oregano, mint and chopstick peduncles is recommended for cases of obesity; Leaves and fruits of Fennel are indicated in baths and steamings for facial cleansing; Decoction soothes eye inflammation.
But let’s see the preparation of a typical dish of Italian cuisine and precise that of the province of Palermo:
• Pasta with sardines, one of the many recipes that are often distinguished by small variations: For the pasta recipe with the Sicilian sardines, cut the fennel, obtaining only the tenderest part; Wash it and bake it in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain it by storing water in the pot. Clean the sardines, open them to the book, and remove the head and the bush with the tail. Simmer the raisins in the water. Chop the onion and pick it up in a large frying pan with fillets of broken anchovies, a glass of water, a pinch of salt and 70 g of oil; Cook until it sizzles, then add half a saffron sachet dissolved in a little water. Add to the onion the curled and squeezed raisins and the pine nuts, and season for 1 ‘stirring. Combine sardines, fennel, minced, and pepper; Put the lid and cook for 2 ‘. Dump the bucatini in the cooking water of the fennel, put back to the boil, then drain them to the tooth and pour them into the frying pan with sardines; Gently stir to flavor and let them rest for 2-3 minutes before serving them. To this delicacy you can add, for those who like it of the previously toasted and properly salted molli and adding pine nuts.
Anyway, in the kitchen you can use all the parts of the fennel. The white lump (mistakenly considered a bulb) of the cultivated fennel can be eaten raw in salads or boiled and grated and can be added to the stews.
As for wild fennel, called “finocchina” or “fennel” in the kitchen, either fresh or dried flowers are used, or fruits or “diachenes”, improperly called “seeds”, which are more or less sweet, peppered Or bitter, depending on the variety, both the leaves (or beard), and the larger or smaller shoots used in the Marches to cook the bombets (sea urchins); The leaves are used fresh and chopped to flavor soups, fish dishes, salads and cheeses: in the “pasta with sardines”, Sicilian recipe note, wild fennel leaves are one of the essential ingredients.
The flowers are used to aromatize boiled chestnuts, baked or baked mushrooms, pickled olives and pork (in particular the “porchetta” of Upper Lazio). So-called “seeds” are mainly used to flavor tarallini (Apulia), donuts or other homemade cakes and to spice hot wine or herbal teas. They are also part of the recipe of a typical Piedmont cookie, the fincchino. It is used in the coastal regions of the Tyrrhenian Sea, a “liqueur liqueur”, for which they use fresh flowers and / or seeds and leaves.
Harvesting for the consumption of wild fennel, both sprouts and leaves can be carried out throughout the year as needed. Seeds should be harvested to full ripeness and before they fall from umbrellas.
Seed preservation must be carried out after drying. It is important that the seeds are clean and well dried before placing them in jars, this to avoid the formation of dangerous molds.
Umbrellas are picked before the fall of the seeds in the late summer, twigs are tied into small bunches and kept for a few days in a warm, ventilated and dry place.
They are then left to the sun for a few days so that any residual moisture is eliminated.
They are then separated from umbrellas and cleaners and stored in glass jars, preferably with rubber gaskets.
Seeds also serve to flavor various fish dishes as well as meat and sausages.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Please note: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgici uses are indicated for information purposes only, do not represent in any way a medical prescription; it accepts no liability on their use for therapeutic purposes, cosmetic or food.