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F For Fennel Seeds - More Than A Mouth Freshener

In my childhood, I used to visit my village during every summer vacation. In my eastern UP village, summers were about mangoes, melons, jackfruits and sugar cane. Kids used to have them in plenty and even used to get bored having them every day. Then, my Maasi used to make mongo and jackfruit pickles as there was an abundance of these summer fruits. And when she used to roast the pickle masala, one peculiar smell always made me ask her "Can I have some Fennel Maasi?"

F For Fennel Seeds
F For Fennel Seeds - Vibhu & Me
Since my childhood, somehow I have my taste developed for fennel seeds. I like chewing fennel with little Mishri after my meal. Fennel is crispy and somewhat sugary seed. It looks like cumin but it is greener and has a unique flavor with a warm, sweet aroma. Popularly known as Saunf in Hindi, fennel is a herb belonging to the parsley family. In India, fennel is commonly used as a spice in food, a flavoring agent for beverages, and as a post-meal digestive aid and refreshment. In many parts of India, fennel leaves are also used in curries. 

Two types of fennel seeds are available majorly in India. The Sweet fennel and the Florence fennel. Florence fennel is grown for eating and is used mostly as post-meal refreshment. Sweet fennel, on the other hand, is used for pickles, curries and in ayurvedic medicines. Fennel is a plant whose every part is edible and soothing to our body. Just like our kitchens always have cumin and cumin powder both, we also keep fennel seeds and fennel seed powder both and use them based on their taste benefits. Interestingly, fennel seeds are popular in both sweet and savory dishes. Fennel seed is one of the components of famous Panch Phoran spice mix that is very popular in Indian cuisine. And do you know India is the top exporter of fennel seeds in the world? Yes, we grow so much of fennel.

History of Fennel Seeds
Fennel is assumed native to Southern Europe and Asia Minor. Fennel has been in use for centuries, most often as the plant itself. Branches of fennel plant were also believed to be causing aversion of evil spirits which is a belief that made people hang its branches above their doors. It is said that the English word 'marathon' is derived from the Greek word for fennel. A famous battle "Battle of Marathon" (490 BC) took place on a field of fennel. Pliny (AD 23-79), the Roman author of The Naturalis Historie, believed that serpents rubbed against fennel because it could improve their eyesight after shedding their skins. There is a proof in the literature that Roman warriors chewed fennel seeds as Fennel symbolizes longevity, courage, and strength.

Panch Phoran Spice Mix 
(Credit - Google Image search)

How fennel seeds reached India is not clear when I went through the history of fennel. But since ancient time, fennel seed water is being given to infants as a digestive remedy in India. And how can we forget Mukhwas that is being served to guests and special people after meals? It was a preparation of betel leaves (Paan) and betel nuts(Supari). And so many ingredients like fennel, gulkand, cardamom, coconut were being added to Mukhwas. All this used to aid digestion with giving a fresh breath to the person chewing it. And not sure since when this five spices mix named Panch Phoran is part of Bengali cooking. (I need to do some more research I guess!!). We Indians have been using Fennel since long for sure.

Benefits of Fennel Seeds as per Ayurveda
From an Ayurvedic perspective, fennel seeds are considered one of the best medicines for any digestive system problem. They can be used to treat digestive discomfort, flatulence, cramps, nausea and dull metabolism. Fennel is also assumed good for relieving nervous tension in the muscles and it calms down the brain and nervous system. It can also benefit in urinary problems, lung congestion, menstrual difficulties and the production and flow of breast milk.

As per modern science, Fennel seed is a concentrated source of minerals like Copper, Potassium, Calcium, Zinc, Manganese, Vitamin C, Iron, Selenium, and Magnesium. Thus consuming fennel is more than an age-old practice to simply beat bad breath. Some other fennel seed benefits:
  • Helps Regulate Blood Pressure
  • Reduce Water Retention in body
  • Relieves Constipation, Indigestion, IBS & Bloating
  • Reduce Asthma Symptoms
  • Helps Purify Blood
  • Improves Eyesight
  • Balances Tri-doshas (Vata, Pita, Kapha).
  • Great for Acne 
  • Fennel Seed Powder - Vibhu & Me
    Fennel Seed Powder 
     (Credit - Google Image search)

  • Keeps Cancer Away
Dadi Maa Ka Nuskha
Drink Fennel water in plenty. Being rich in fiber, fennel seeds keeps hunger pangs at bay. So if you on a fitness regime, fennel can help. 

How to buy
Fennel seeds can be easily available in departmental stores, supermarkets and local retail stores near us. Though the size of fennel makes its name a bit particular sometimes like Moti Saunf (bigger sized one) is for cooking purpose and Meethi Saunf (regular small sized) is for eating. Be clear when you ask for Fennel seeds. In local terms,  So ask as you need it. Also, you can buy ready made Fennel Powder and Panch Phoran spice mix. Give it a try!
(I am taking part in #BlogchatterA2Z and today’s letter is 'F'.)

You can read my other #BlogchatterA2Z posts here :
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  1. Excellent article Shipra.. enjoyed reading it. I like the standardization that you have adopted across your articles on Spices and that presents a well knit structure to the post. Also, I enjoy the references to history that you bring in, as spices are connected with multiple historical events and migrations etc. The spice trade is an important historical activity that had linked India to the world long ago. Looking forward to more such articles... keep writing such good stuff!

  2. Such an interesting theme and you are covering each spice so well. Great work! All the best for the rest of the challenge Shipra!

  3. So Fennel is actually Saunf and is so important. When I dine outside with my family I have a tendency to take too much of saunf especially when it is sweetened. I mean it is so addictive. It is only after I tip the waiter and I am safely away from the hotel that I stop thinking of saunf. Excellent article giving the benefits of Fennel. I like the way you tell us about the role each spice you cover has to play in Ayurvedic medicine.

  4. interesting article. we do have this after food as a mouth refresher. I boil the fennel seeds in water and drink. aids digestion and to lose fat.


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