Fennel has a long history as a medicinal and edible plant. The ancient Greeks believed it gave strength, courage and longevity to those who used it and so it was given to competitors at the Olympic games.
Pliny attributed it with many medicinal properties and it was favoured by roman gladiators. It would, in fact, have made very good food for slaves because, while it is nutritious , it also allay appetite.
It has been grown in Britain since Anglo-Saxon times and, according to the Welsh Mydvai of the thirteen century, ‘HE who sees Fennel and gathers it not is not a man but a devil’. In keeping with this perception it was hung in doorways and stuffed into keyholes on Midsummer’s eve during the Middle Ages to protect houses against fire and evil; influences. It was used as a medical drink to keep insanity and temptation under control in much the same way as garlic was used to scare vampires away.
Gripe Water for infants
Some babies like this recipe, others seem to find the taste too strong. They may be better off with dill or chamomile.
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1 cup boiling watercourses
Â½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (optional)
Honey, to taste
Pour boiling water onto fennel seeds and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and then add sodium bicarbonate, if using. Sweeten to taste with honey, strain and use tepid in babie’s bottles.
Fennel Eye Poultice
IF you suffer from hay fever, have been crying a lot or have swollen, puffy eyes for some other reason you may like to try this soothing, cooling poultice.
1 raw potato
3 tablespoons fresh Fennel leaves
2 pieces muslin or cheesecloth, approximately 90×60 mm
Combine potato and fennel and place on the pieces of muslin. Lay one over each closed eye and leave for 15 minutes, then splash with cold water and dry.
Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) Originated in Southern Europe/Mediterranean Basin.
Click on the map below to find more plants with the same geo-cultural connections.