Indigenous to the Mediterranean region, fennel or “shoumar” in Arabic is widely distributed in the world and renowned for its culinary and medicinal (therapeutic) uses. Fennel grows in the wild in dry, stony calcareous soils but also in moist soils; it grows in winter but can also be found all year long.
The whole plant with its bulb, feathery leaves and seeds are used in the kitchen of different cultures. The fennel stalks similar to celery’s in texture and crunch are added raw in salads, but also stir-fried (as onions) to braises and pastas. The leaves are usually used for garnish, but can also be cooked with fish (especially salmon) or added to salads and yogurt sauce to make tzatziki. Fennel seeds have a sweet aroma and a strong aniseed flavor; they are used in spices mixes. Different types of fennel omelets are known across the Mediterranean countries, they use both the leaves and stalks of the plant.
In Lebanon, fennel is mostly collected in the wild and prepared in omelets but can also be consumed as “assoura” boiled, strained and marinated with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil just like chicory.
Fennel is a crunchy vegetable that adds a refreshing touch to the Mediterranean cuisine. Its different parts can be all used in cooking: the base and stalks mostly for soups and stews, and the leaves as herb seasonings. Fennel also offers plenty of nutritional benefits and is considered as a “heart healthy” vegetable due to its high fiber content. Rich in Vitamin C, potassium and folate, it will boost your immunity and keep you in shape! (1 cup or 90g of sliced fennel = 27 calories)