Food Focus: Fennel

Did You Know…

One of the main ingredients of absinthe, fennel grows abundantly in areas colonised by the Romans. The Ancient Greek state Marathon took its name from their word for fennel.


The aniseed-like smell of fennel comes from the potent chemical anethole, which reduces ageing inflammation, helps prevent cancer and protects the liver from toxic substances.

From the Umbellifereae family and a cousin of parsley, carrots, dill and coriander, fennel has a long medicinal history, traditionally used to ease digestive gas build-up, shed water retention as a diuretic and lower high blood pressure. It is full of compounds that provide strong antioxidant activity, including two of the most potent found; rutin and Quercetin.

Rutin tones blood vessels to help prevent varicose veins and easy bruising, increases nourishing circulation and is anti-inflammatory.

Quercetin helps prevent heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer and is as a natural anti-histamine, lowering inflammatory allergic reactions – it also helps recycle vitamin C.

  • A known stimulant, it provides motivation without causing a subsequent energy dip.
  • Potassium keeps brain and muscles nerves firing fully for quick reactions.
  • Vitamin C helps heal scars and create anti-stress hormones to retain a youthful appearance.

Practical Tip

Good both raw, sliced in salads and cooked by stir frying, sautéing, braising, stewing, roasting or grilling, it has a piquant taste that adds interest to other vegetables and works particularly well with fish. Chop off the darker green stalk and slice up the lighter bulb to eat, cutting out the tougher part where the root meets.


  • KCalories | 31 kcal
  • Total fat | 0.20 g
  • Protein | 1.24 g
  • Carbohydrate | 7.29 g
  • Fibre | 3.1 g
  • Vitamin C | 12 mg
  • Folate | 27 mcg
  • Potassium | 141 mg





  • 1-2 heads fennel
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 red onion or 2 banana shallots
  • 200ml/1 cup apple cider vinegar (raw if available)
  • 200ml/1 cup water
  • 1 orange (juice and zest)
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 10 peppercorns
  • Pinch of saffron


  1.  Add vinegar, water, orange, honey and spices to a saucepan, bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for 5 minutes or so whilst you prepare the veg.
  2. Remove any woody outer parts of the fennel and peel carrots and onion.
  3. Using a mandolin or knife, finely slice cross sections of the fennel and onion as thinly as possible.
  4. Using a peeler or a mandolin peel the carrot lengthways the whole way through the carrot so you get long, thin carrot ribbons.
  5. Add the onion to the vinegar mix whilst still on the heat and leave to simmer for 30 seconds.
  6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the fennel and carrot to the liquid and leave to cool.
  7. Once the liquid has cooled transfer the veg along with the liquid into an airtight container, ensuring the liquid covers the veg and leave to steep in the vinegar for 2 hours or more if time allows.

Serving suggestion:

Serve with a chicory salad and garnish with coriander leaves, fennel tops and flowers (if available) and pomegranate seeds for a full liver-supporting combination. To make the dish more substantial, serve with roasted hazelnuts, orange segments and radishes or you can also use this sousing liquor to souse fresh mackerel fillets to accompany the fennel.

To souse the mackerel, remove any bones from the fillet and then add fish to the boiling liquid at the same time as the onion and simmer for 30 seconds before removing the pan from the heat, adding the remaining veg and leaving to cool overnight for 8-12 hours.


Store in an airtight container in the fridge with the sousing liquor ensuring the liquid covers the veg. The soused fennel
should keep for a week but bear in mind the longer you leave it in the liquor the more pickled it will become. The mackerel fillets will keep for 3-4 days.

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