How Do You Eat THAT Vegetable? Fennel.

Vegetable Series: When we changed our eating two (now three) years ago, I resolved to be afraid of no vegetable. Not knowing how to cut it or cook it was NOT going to keep it out of my cart. I’ve been slowly working through a series of posts on all the different vegetables we have tried and what we do to the poor things. May you, too, vow to try any and all vegetables in your supermarket! Go get ’em, tiger.

fennel salad and bulbWho eats fennel?  Ok.  Maybe you do.  But I didn’t.  It’s still not my favorite, but how do you know ’til you try?  Can I tell you what I love about fennel?  Bon vivant–I feel like a bon vivant when I’m chopping that thing.  Like I should be cooking from Epicurean or something.  Dim the lights.  Set the music.  Pour the red.  And chop fennel.  To serve to four kids.

Fennel tastes like black licorice.  I’ve fed caterpillars a lot of fennel in my lifetime, so I can’t say why I think of it as a gourmet item.  Butterfly caterpillars love it.  We tolerate it because we know it’s good for us.  (How do caterpillars know such things?)  I’ve used fennel in soups, but I’ve observed we like it and eat it best in a salad mixed with some fruit (like caterpillars—not fruit “like caterpillars,” but we like fruit like caterpillars do).  Something about that licorice flavor that gets supported by fresh strawberries or oranges.

So I tell you, don’t be intimidated by a bulb.  Go get one to hack on today.  I buy the whole bulb of fennel with its little, fern-like leaves.  It shouldn’t have brown spots or soggy looking spots on it.  Give it a good rinse before use.  Then, chop off the top right where the stems and leaves start.  Save them.  Next, chop off the bottom.  Toss it.  You’ll be left with a bulb and some stems with soft leaves on them.  I just chop the bulb like I would an onion and use.  The stems and leaves are all edible.  So I use the leaves and some of the stem, disposing of any that look too big and tough.

Apparently people who have allergies to carrots and celery (or mugwort–What?  Anyone?  Anyone?  What’s mugwort?) may have reactions to fennel.  I don’t think my salad will bring about any of the reported effects, but fennel oil is reported to help painful menstruation, decrease hirsutism (unwanted hair growth) in women, increase libido, stop colic in babies, and decrease bloating and constipation.  Are those doTerra and Young Living “snake oils” onto something?

Fennel Fruit Salad

  • 1 bulb of fennel diced like an onion (get a fennel bulb with the leaves on)
  • 1/4  cup of the fennel leaves finely chopped, it’s okay to get some small stems in there
  • 1 cup of diced (or chopped) strawberries, stems discarded
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 cup of peeled cucumber, chopped (leave the peel on if it suits you better)
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, diced
  • 1 cup of fresh spinach, chopped up
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Salt

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and oil and about 1/4 teaspoonful salt.  Mix well.  Set aside.
  2. In a large serving bowl, mix together all the other ingredients.
  3. Pour the dressing over and mix well to coat.
  4. Finish the salad off with a sprinkle of salt over the top to greet the taste buds.
  5. Options:  You could also add in a tablespoon of poppy seeds or 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds to give it a nutty twist.  If you like a little more dressing, then double the recipe.  If you like the dressing a little sweeter, add not quite a tablespoonful of your favorite sweetener.

Family “gustar” report:  The kiddos blew me away.  Everybody ate their salad.  Epicurean.  So this salad gets a 5/5 rating!  I know.  We have six in the family now with the baby.  Babies don’t eat salad.  Do they?  She ate the blueberries.  One other one picked out the red onions.  Will your kids or hubby like this?  I don’t know.  Your call.

Closing

My kids are slowly learning to expand their palates.  If I had given up in the first month.  The first three months.  Even the first two years, I would have lost the battle.  Call me Boadicea.  I’m tired of marketers and government guidelines raping my children, taking the health that is rightfully theirs.  I’ve had enough.  No, kids.  Your friends don’t eat this way.  Period.  We do.  We’re brave.  We’re fearless.  We’re gourmands.  Or maybe we’re just plain folks who eat fennel in a salad.  It’s just food.  Have another bite.

Have a good one!  Eat some fennel.  And artichokes.  And rutabagas.  And jicamaAnd parsnips.  And kohlrabiOr some vegetable!  Got a vegetable you’re proud of chopping this week?  Care to share?

~~Terri

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