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Fennel bulb nutrition facts

Delicate, sweet flavored fennel bulb commonly features in many Mediterranean cuisines. Its succulent enlarged bulb imparts special “anise like” sweet flavor to the recipes. Bulb fennel is cultivated as vegetable for its beautiful, squatted stems in many regions of the southern Europe, especially in the Italian plains. It is also known as Florence fennel, finocchio, sweet fennel etc.

Fennel is a member of the Apiaceae (parsley family) and is related to carrots, caraway, anise, cumin, dill etc. Scientific name: Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum.

Bulb fennel is a cool season perennial herb but grown as annual vegetable crop. Unlike seed fennel, the vegetable fennel is a small plant, growing up to only 2 feet in height. As the plant grows, its thickened lower leaves overlap one above the other to form a swollen, bulblike structure just above the ground. At maturity, its bulb measures about 3-5 inches wide and about 3 inches in length.

As the plant grows, oftentimes, surrounding soil is pulled around the stem base to create a mound to obtain long blanched fronds.

Health benefits of fennel bulb

  • Fennel bulb is a versatile vegetable, used since ancient times for its nutritional and medicinal properties. This winter season has some noteworthy essential oils, flavonoid anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that have known health benefits.

  • Bulb fennel is one of very low calorie vegetables. 100 g bulb provides just 31 calories. Further, it contains generous amounts of fiber (3.1 g/100 g or 8% of RDI), very little fat and zero cholesterol.

  • Fresh bulbs give sweet anise-like flavor. Much of it is due to high concentration of aromatic essential oils like anethole, estragole, and fenchone (fenchyl acetate). Anethole has been found to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

  • The bulbs have moderate amounts of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Their juicy fronds indeed contain several vital vitamins such as pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in small but healthy proportions. 100 g fresh bulbs provide 27 µg of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Their adequate levels in the diet during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.

  • In addition, fennel bulb contain average amount of water-soluble vitamin, vitamin-C. 100 g of fresh bulbs provide 12 mg or 20% of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Further, it has small amounts of vitamin A.

  • The bulbs have very good levels of heart-friendly electrolyte potassium. 100 g provides 414 mg or 9% of daily-recommended levels. It is an important electrolyte inside the cell. Potassium helps reduce blood pressure and rate of heartbeats by countering effects of sodium. Fennel also contains small amounts of minerals such as copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium.

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 31 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 7.29 g 6%
Protein 1.24 g 2%
Total Fat 0.20 g 1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 3.1 g 8%

Folates 27 µg 7%
Niacin 0.640 mg 4%
Pantothenic acid 0.232 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.047 mg 4%
Riboflavin 0.032 mg 2.5%
Thiamin 0.010 mg 1%
Vitamin A 134 IU 4.5%
Vitamin C 12 mg 20%

Sodium 52 mg 3%
Potassium 414 mg 9%

Calcium 49 mg 5%
Copper 0.066 mg 7%
Iron 0.73 mg 9%
Magnesium 17 mg 4%
Manganese 0.191 mg 1%
Phosphorus 50 mg 9%
Selenium 0.7 µg 1%
Zinc 0.20 mg 2%

Selection and storage

Fresh bulb fennels are readily available in early autumn or spring. However, they can be sold much of the year, especially in the super markets. In the United States, the bulbs are labeled as "anise" in the markets, because of their anise like flavor.

To harvest, gently pull the whole plant off the ground firmly holding at the bulb base. Trim the roots and cut off the top green leafy stems as they rob nutrients from the fennel fronds.

In the stores, choose fresh pearly white fennel bulbs that are compact, heavy in hand, and attractive anise like sweet flavor. Buy medium sized bulbs each weighing about 5-10 ounces.

Very large and over-mature bulbs are stringy and have less intense flavor. Avoid dried out, shriveled bulbs and those with yellow discoloration, spots, splits, and bruised.

At home, place them in a zip pouch plastic bag and store inside the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator as you do in for leeks. They stay fresh for up to 5 days, however, prolong storage would make them lose some flavor.

Preparation and serving methods

Fennel bulb is used as vegetable to add flavors to various dishes, particularly in salads, stews, and soups. Its blanched bulb has a unique aroma and a light, sweet, subtle licorice taste. The bulbs are one of the favorite winter season vegetables in whole of France and Italy.

To prepare, trim off the base as you do in onions. Cut away top leafy stalks just above the bulb. Remove tough outer one to two layers, as they are stringy and unappetizing or use them to prepare vegetable stock. Then the clear white bulb may be cut into cubes, sticks, or slices to add in recipes.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Thinly sliced raw finochhio is eaten alone, served with dip, or added to vegetable salads (fenoci in salata).

  • It can be steamed, braised, or sautéing and added in variety of dishes.

  • Fenecchìjdde, is a popular Christmas eve soup in Apulia region of southern Italy.

  • Fennel bulb can be added to flavor meat, fish, pork, and poultry recipes.

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