Are you new to fennel? If so, this zesty orange and fennel salad is a great place to start. Bursting with vibrant flavors and a satisfying crunch, this salad is sure to become your go-to for days when you crave a refreshing, delicious, and effortlessly easy dish.
Fennel: A Nutritional Powerhouse
Fennel, scientifically known as Foeniculum vulgare, isn’t just a delightful perennial herb with a licorice-like flavor; it’s also a nutritional treasure trove loaded with potential health benefits.
A mere one-cup serving (87g) of sliced fennel offers a generous 3 grams of dietary fiber, 17% of your Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin C, 6% DV of Folate, and 10% DV of Potassium.
Beyond these essential nutrients, fennel boasts unique compounds, notably anethole, which may possess remarkable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, potentially lowering the risk of chronic illnesses. Anethole is also believed to exhibit anti-cancer potential by inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells, as suggested by a study published in the journal Phytomedicine. According to the study: “anethole may be viable as an anti-cancer agent through the modulation of apoptosis, cell survival and proliferation in breast cancer cells.”
So it’s no wonder this herb, including its seeds, has earned a prominent place in traditional Eastern medicine for addressing various health concerns.
Most commonly, fennel is believed to:
- Digestive Aid: It’s renowned for its ability to alleviate bloating and gas, making it a go-to remedy for digestive discomfort.
- Breastmilk Production: While primarily anecdotal, some women believe that fennel can boost lactation and increase breastmilk supply.
- Pain Relief: Fennel may help reduce primary dysmenorrhea pain in some individuals.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Thanks to its anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, like anethole, fennel may help reduce inflammation in the body.
While further clinical research is needed to explore the full extent of fennel’s health benefits, there’s no doubt that incorporating this flavorful herb into your diet can be a tasty and potentially beneficial choice.
Tips for preparing this fennel salad
When is fennel in season? Fennel is typically at its prime from late fall through early spring. So, bookmark this recipe for those cooler months when you’re craving something light and refreshing to brighten your day.
Slicing your Fennel Bulb
- Trim the Stems and Fronds: Start by removing the stems and feathery fronds from the fennel bulb. I like to include some of the fronds and stems in this salad.
- Cut in Half: Place the fennel bulb on your cutting board. Cut it in half vertically from top to bottom, so you have two equal halves.
- Remove the Core: Look at the cut side of each fennel half, and you’ll notice a triangular-shaped core near the base, which can be tough and fibrous. To remove it, make a diagonal cut from the top of the fennel bulb to the base, slicing out the core. Discard the core pieces.
- Slice Thinly: With the core removed, place one of the fennel halves flat side down on the cutting board. Slice it thinly using a sharp knife. You can slice it crosswise or lengthwise, depending on your preference. You want to aim for slices of even thickness for consistent texture.
- Repeat for the Other Half: Repeat the slicing process for the other fennel half. And there you have it!
Slicing vs. Shaving: You have options when it comes to preparing this fennel salad. While this recipe suggests slicing for a satisfying crunch, you can also use a mandolin to shave the fennel very finely. It’s all about personal preference—both methods deliver a delightful result. I prefer my fennel on the crunchier side for this particular salad, so I prefer slicing to shaving!
Make sure you select a sweet orange. Here’s how:
I find it extremely frustrating when I slice into an orange only to discover it’s dry and lacking in flavor. Here are some tips to help you choose a sweet orange:
- Firmness: Select oranges that feel firm and heavy for their size. This indicates juiciness and freshness.
- Skin Texture: Look for oranges with smooth, unblemished skin. Wrinkles or soft spots might indicate age or spoilage.
- Color: Opt for oranges with bright, vibrant color. The shade can vary depending on the variety, but avoid overly green or dull-looking oranges.
- Fragrance: Give the orange a gentle sniff; it should have a sweet, citrusy aroma. A strong, pleasant scent is a good indicator of flavor.