Fennel is an under appreciated medicinal plant and vegetable in America. It is mild enough to treat infant colic but one of the few Western herbs strong enough address an adult’s weak “spleen”. One has to appreciate its mild anise flavor to enjoy it in food. But if you like the taste, it can add magic when raw in a salad or cooked in a stew. Use it to replace celery in any recipe. This fennel slaw has all the right flavors-sweet, sour, fresh, and spicy. It works really well on top of something bland like a lentil burger.
1 cup of raw fennel bulb grated
1 cup of raw celery grated
1 pinch of curry powder
1 pinch of ginger powder
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 pinch of clove powder
1 pinch of red chile seeds
1 cup of rice wine vinegar, boiled and allowed to cool for five minutes
1 TBSP of sugar
1 TBSP of finely chopped fennel leaves
In a large bowl mix all of the above ingredients together with a spoon. Place into a large jar, allow to fully cool without the lid. Seal and place in the refrigerator for one week. Then you can open and enjoy as a condiment/relish. Keep cold. Will last if refrigerated for at least one year.
Foeniculum is a member of the parsley/carrot family that is often found in colonies. It is important to identify this herb accurately, even if growing in an urban yard or garden. Warmer climates produce a perennial almost 5 feet tall. A carrot shaped root is below the ground. When very mature the stem can form a large white “bulb” (like celery) at its base. There are 2-5 hollow, pithy, finely grooved bright/jade green stalks with bluish stripes. Some plants appear to have a waxy/white “bloom”. The leaves grow from the center/basal (immature) or branch off upper stalks as wide alternate sheaths (mature) that wrap around the outside. Leaf shape is pinnate, very compound, and constructed of numerous threadlike filiform segments (like some ferns or asparagus). Compound umbels produce yellow flowers in late summer or early fall. When cut, torn, or rubbed the plant parts produce a strong licorice scent. Fennel seeds are light green (becoming a bit yellow as they dry/mature) oblong, dense and a good size.
Caution: Poison hemlock and fennel are easy to confuse. Hemlock will have purple blotches/spots on the stalks, leaves that lacy/broader/more triangular, white flowers, and an unpleasant smell. Poison hemlock and young dying fennel in the fall can be especially hard to tell apart. When in doubt crush plant material or seeds with the foot and smell.
Foeniculum is well know as a remedy for stomach and intestinal complaints. It has been used to treat abdominal cramps, bloating, indigestion, nausea, constipation, heartburn, bad breath, gas, and colic. It expels mucus, relaxes bronchi and clears congestion in the lungs. It relieves a horse throat, moves stagnation in the liver, and increases the flow of breast milk. This herb may help stabilize blood sugar levels, Chewing dried fennel seeds stimulates the digestive juices, helps digest fats, assists in the assimilation of food and treats bad breath. As an infusion it serves as a diuretic for kidney stones and gout. As a weak tea it can lower fever, reduce teething pain, and stop hiccups in children.
Parts Used: Leaves and seeds
Energetics: sweet, warm, moist
Spiritual and Emotional Uses: To move stagnant energy and bring sweetness and freshness back into life. To restore trust, security and purity to a relationship. To repel negative energies.
Contraindications: Avoid therapeutic doses in pregnancy. Excess consumption can stimulate the nervous system.