Fennel has a dry, pungent, and sweet. Its sharp, licorice-like flavor is a cornerstone of amaro‘s traditional flavor and is used in many modern amari.
Fennel is found in Amaro d’erbe Nina, an Alpine style amaro, along with several others. While much of the plant is edible, the fruit of the plant is what is typically used in spirits:
The bulbs, leaves, and stalks are all edible, but it is the fruit — often called a seed, although the seeds are actually found inside the tiny oblong fruits – that is used to flavor absinthe, pastis and other liqueurs.1
Different varieties of fennel have been bred, given the seeds different flavor profiles.
Medicinally, the seeds are mostly taken as a digestive remedy. The root and bulb of the plant are also effective, but less so. The seeds acts as a carminative and anti-inflammatory, working to thwart indigestion and acidity.2
Fennel was written about in numerous ancient and medieval texts, including those by Pliny, Palladius, Walafrid Strabo, Albertus Magnus, John of Garland, Piero de’ Crescenzi and in the Lexicon Plantarum.3 Fennel was used in medieval monasteries, “as a cure of intestinal ailments, urinary tract diseases, dropsy and coughs.”4 Fennel was a commonly available alternative source of anistic oil to anise, which was imported from the Near East and could be fussy to cultivate. Fennel seeds freely and is relatively easy to grow.5 In the Physica, Hildegarde writes that:
In whatever way it is eaten, it makes a person happy, brings pleasant warmth and good perspiration, and makes the digestion good.6
Both the Antidotarium Nicolai and The English Physician cite fennel for treatment of a wide range of maladies, noting that it can “prevent indigestion and heal the spleen and liver while destroying any stones located in the bladder.”7
Fennel is an herbaceous perennial native to the Mediterranean, and can easily be grown as an annual. It likes rich, well-draining soil. It should be grown in full sun, and watered regularly. Once established, its taproot does not like to be disturbed. It seeds freely, which can become problematic.8
Fennel can experience stem and root rot if drainage is poor. It is also susceptible to caterpillars, slugs, and aphids.9
- Stewart, Amy. The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks (Kindle edition). Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2013 (loc. 2698).
- A-Z of Medicinal Herbs, p. 59, 154. CITATION NEEDED.
- Opsomer-Halleux, Carméla. “The Medieval Garden and Its Role in Medicine,” in Medieval Gardens (Dumbarton Oaks Colloquia on the History of Landscape Architecture, v9). Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1986 (p. 108, 113)
- Opsomer-Halleux, op. cit. (p. 102).
- McLean, Teresa. Medieval English Gardens. New York: Viking Press, 1980 (p. 180).
- von Bingen, Hildegard. Hildegard’s Healing Plants, from Her Medieval Classic Physica. Bruce W. Hozeski, trans. Boston: Beacon Press, 2001 (p. 64).
- González Blanco, Marta Isabel. “An edition of the Middle English translation of the Antidotarium Nicolai.” MPhil thesis, University of Glasgow, 2018 (p. 112).
- Missouri Botanical Garden, “Foeniculum vulgare.” Accessed August 14, 2019.
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