Growing Fennel hydroponically in condo-farm

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a hardy, flowering herb related to carrots. It also looks similar to coriander, caraway, and dill but is much taller. It reaches up to 2.5 meters in height. It has small, feathery leaves and yellowish flowers. It bears what looks like small seeds but are actually its fruits. As a perennial plant, it could live for a number of years.

The fennel plant came from the Mediterranean but has spread to many areas of the world over thousands of years. The name “fennel” originated from a Latin word for hay. Fennel was important to ancient Greeks and Romans as food, medicine, and insect repellent. It even has a place in Greek mythology. In the tale of Prometheus bringing fire from Olympus to earth, he used a giant stalk of fennel as a torch.

The health-supporting benefits of fennel have some similarities to that of anise. It is an aromatic herb most commonly used to aid the digestive organs. It is a staple remedy of traditional health practitioners. They used this for the usual cases of indigestion, bloat, and belly cramps.

According to word-of-mouth, fennel is also known to give positive support for nursing mothers. There are also reports of the herb being able to boost the quantity and quality of milk produced goats and mice.

 

The nutrients we get from eating Fennel

Vitamins and Minerals

The US National Nutrient Database has reference values for selected nutrients. These are from both the fennel seed and the root bulb. Both sets of data are presented below through separate tables. The percentage of the Recommended Daily Allowance these provide for each nutrient are also listed alongside per serving size. The two sets of nutrient values can be compared on a 100-gram serving size basis.

Table 1. Nutrient data for: Fennel root bulb (Source)
Nutrient Unit 100g %RDA 1cup =87g %RDA
Proximates
Energy kcal 31 1.07 27 0.93
Protein g 1.24 1.97 1.08 1.71
Total lipid (fat) g 0.2 0.26 0.17 0.22
Carbohydrate, by difference g 7.3 2.92 6.35 2.54
Fiber, total dietary g 3.1 10.33 2.7 9
Sugars, total g 3.93 10.48 3.42 9.12
Minerals
Calcium, Ca mg 49 4.9 43 4.3
Iron, Fe mg 0.73 9.12 0.64 8
Magnesium, Mg mg 17 4.25 15 3.75
Phosphorus, P mg 50 7.12 44 6.27
Potassium, K mg 414 20.7 360 18
Sodium, Na mg 52 10.4 45 9
Zinc, Zn mg 0.2 1.82 0.17 1.55
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 12 13.33 10.4 11.56
Thiamin mg 0.01 0.83 0.009 0.75
Riboflavin mg 0.032 2.47 0.028 2.16
Niacin mg 0.64 4 0.557 3.48
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.047 3.62 0.041 3.15
Folate, DFE mcg 27 6.75 23 5.75
Vitamin A, RAE mcg 48 5.34 42 4.67
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) mg 0.58 3.87 0.5 3.33
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) mcg 62.8 89.71 54.6 78
Lipids
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 0.169 0.89 0.147 0.77

The roots have vitamin K as the most significant nutrient. It could supply up to 89.71% RDA. Vitamin C is also significant. But this is at a much less, just more than 13% RDA. Other vitamins like folate and vitamin A have notable concentrations, providing more than 5% RDA. For minerals, potassium is the most abundant at more than 20% RDA. Most of the other minerals are also significant except for magnesium and zinc. The RDA values for these nutrients range from almost 5 to 10%.

Table 2. Nutrient data for: fennel seed (Source)
Nutrient Unit 100g %RDA 1tbsp =5.8g %RDA
Proximates
Energy kcal 345 11.9 20 0.69
Protein g 15.8 25.08 0.92 1.46
Total lipid (fat) g 14.87 19.31 0.86 1.12
Carbohydrate, by difference g 52.29 20.92 3.03 1.21
Fiber, total dietary g 39.8 132.67 2.3 7.67
Minerals
Calcium, Ca mg 1196 119.6 69 6.9
Iron, Fe mg 18.54 231.75 1.08 13.5
Magnesium, Mg mg 385 96.25 22 5.5
Phosphorus, P mg 487 69.37 28 3.99
Potassium, K mg 169.4 24.13 98 4.9
Sodium, Na mg 88 17.6 5 1
Zinc, Zn mg 3.7 33.76 0.21 10.96
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 21 23.33 1.2 1.33
Thiamin mg 0.408 34 0.024 2
Riboflavin mg 0.353 27.2 0.02 1.54
Niacin mg 6.05 37.81 0.351 2.19
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.47 36.15 0.027 2.08
Vitamin A, RAE mcg 7 0.78 0 0
Lipids
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 1.69 8.89 0.098 0.52

Iron is the most significant nutrient present in the seed. For the same 100-gram quantity, the seed offers a tremendous 231% of the RDA for the mineral. Calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus are also in very high concentrations (%RDA-wise 119.6%, 96.25% and 69.37% respectively). The rest of the minerals, as well as the vitamins, are also present in significant amounts. That is except for vitamin A which is provided only at a negligible .78% of the RDA. There is one more notable difference between the nutrient compositions of the roots and seeds of the fennel. The dietary fiber component of the seed is strangely much higher than that of the root. The seed offers a very high 132.67% RDA, while that of the root is way lower at 10.33%. Perhaps much of the fibers in the root are in a form which is not available for the human body to use. The other phytochemical is anethole. This is the same phytochemical found in anise. It is also the main reason for the herb’s beneficial action on digestive ailments. But its concentration in fennel is lower. From lab analyses, it typically ranges from 31-36% of the total extracted essential oil. This substance can reportedly ease spasms, lessen pain and help the digestive expel gases to cure bloat.

Scientific Studies on Fennel

  • Colic, or pain in the abdomen is due to gas in the stomach and intestines. It is a common ailment among breastfeeding babies. Fennel oil was assessed through a number of tests to help determine its efficacy against symptoms of colic. In one clinical trial, breastfeeding infants affected with colic were fed a standardized extract of fennel oil mixed with other herbal oils. One group among ninety-three infants suffering from the ailment was fed the mixture for one week. After this period, babies in the treatment group were observed to show fewer signs of distress.
  • In another clinical trial, oil emulsion made from fennel seed was given to a group of babies with symptoms of colic. Relief was determined when the infants showed less crying (to less than 9 hours per week). Forty of sixty-two infants (65%) showed positive results compared to 23.7% in the control group. Overall, fennel oil gave strong indications of being helpful to reduce colic among nursing babies.
  • Fennel can evidently extend its healing effects to adults who suffer from digestive problems. One such disease is called Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is a common and long-term disorder among many adults. It affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include abdominal cramping, pain, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation.
    A “real-life” study was done among patients with this condition. Fennel oil was used in combination with turmeric in capsules. This was given twice a day for a month, followed by 2 capsules once daily for another month. After the treatment period, the patients reported a significant reduction in the severity of their symptoms. As a result, they experienced much improvement in the quality of their daily lives. This gives a strong basis for how fennel can aid thousands afflicted with this and similar disorders.
  • Research has been done on the essential oil in fennel. This is to know how it provides antioxidant and antimicrobial protection. In one experiment, the oils were extracted using lab equipment under different lengths of time. The stems and leaves of the plant yielded anethole as the most substantial component. The fruits or seeds yielded a substance which chemically related to it. Both forms showed significant antioxidant activity. Antibacterial activity was also observed but was somewhat less significant.
  • A similar experiment yielded the same results. Three varieties of fennel were identified and used to extract essential oils. The essential oils were tested in the laboratory and tested against cultures of bacteria and fungi. Antibacterial and antioxidant properties in all samples. Even fungi were affected by the antimicrobial action.
  • Fennel is traditionally recommended for symptoms affecting the digestive which are caused by diabetes. But there are still few scientific research to confirm this. In one such study, fennel essential oil was used on lab rats. The rats had been previously given a drug which caused diabetes. This caused very high sugar in the affected animals. Their kidneys and pancreas were also notably damaged at the microscopic examination level. Fennel oil when fed to the diseased rats significantly reversed the high blood sugar to normal. Furthermore, the damages to the kidneys and pancreas were repaired after a time. The conclusion is that fennel oil should still be further investigated. This is to further know its potential part in diabetic treatment.
  • There was an initial assessment of fennel seed for its effectiveness against cancer. It was fed at different doses to white lab mice. The results demonstrated a measurable reduction of tumors on the skin and in the stomach. There was an increase in the activity of body enzymes at 4% and 6% doses of the test diets. These act as antioxidants within the body. This significantly lessened damage to the skin and stomach tissues. Fennel seed as food against cancer is very promising. It deserves further studies to quantify its potential.

The Health Benefits of Fennel

Traditional health practitioners attest to the healing power of fennel in many digestive problems. Scientific methods of testing have given them credibility.

  1. Fennel, either alone or used with other herbs, is a great relief for babies suffering from daily bouts of colic. It can help expel gas, ease and soothe aches and cramping.
  2. Fennel is also useful for adults afflicted with poor digestion, bloat, abdominal cramping, and pain. These symptoms may be isolated or are part of a more serious disease like IBS. In any case, fennel oil can act to complement other treatments for these conditions.
  3. Fennel has been tested and shows to have antioxidant properties. These may be the main reason for the herb’s ability to treat digestive ailments.
  4. Fennel possesses an ability to fight off or at least slowdown bacteria and fungi. So this is helpful for digestive ailments caused by infections.
  5. Fennel has shown some promise to fight against certain forms of cancer. So this merits more research to explore this potential.

Recipes using Fennel

Fennel root and seed have high amounts of vitamins and minerals. These are nutritious ingredients to any soups or salads. But the following recipes aims to take advantage of substances within the herb for specific everyday ailments.

Homemade Toothpaste with Fennel for sensitive gums

This takes advantage of the antioxidant and pain-killing ability of anethone in fennel. The raw root fiber from fennel helps to clean the teeth and gums.

Ingredients:

4 tbs. coconut oil
2–4 tbsp baking soda or a combination of baking soda and sea salt
5 drops fennel essential oil
5 grams fennel root/bulb
5 drops any aromatic herb essential oil (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Place coconut oil container in a bowl of hot water to liquefy it (depending on your room temperature, this may take up to 15 minutes).
  2. Using a food processor like a blender, coarsely grind the fennel root into fine grits.
  3. Measure all ingredients into another bowl and stir until completely blended.
  4. Store the finished product in a lidded glass jar. Keep it in a cool, dry place.
  5. Don’t store for more than a month. Make a fresh batch.

Fennel root digestive tonic

This is a variation of a digestive tonic using papaya, pineapple and apple cider vinegar. This recipe substitutes the meat of the fennel root bulb. Since it is already sweet by itself, there is no need to use a natural sweetener like the pineapple. Fennel’s natural ability to stimulate the intestines will serve to expel out bloat. The anethole present in the bulb can ease abdominal cramping and pain. The apple cider vinegar will serve to cleanse out clogged wastes and toxins from the intestines.

Ingredients:

2 cups Fennel root/bulb
2-3 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients into a blender/food processor. Blend into a paste or puree. Pour into a bottle container with a cap and store in the refrigerator.
  2. Start taking 1 tablespoon 3 times a day. Preferably take once upon waking, one after a meal and one before bedtime. Do this a for a few days to get accustomed to the mixture.
  3. On the third day, increase to 2 tablespoonfuls 3 times a day at the same times. Continue this for a few weeks.
  4. After the symptoms or conditions have improved, continue taking at the original dose. Make a new batch if needed and dispose of any left after more than a few weeks to retain freshness and potency.
  5. Try to continue and make this a part of your daily rituals even after your condition has improved. Take this at least once or twice daily.

Mild Fennel Essential Oil Extract for colicky babies

This is a milder option to anise essential oil with its lower anethole content.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. fennel seeds

3 tbsp. olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Get a glass or ceramic cup and crumble the fennel seeds into it. Or you may use a mortar and pestle to do this.
  2. Pour the oil into the glass/ceramic container. Expose to very low heat. This could by putting it under mild sunlight or just near a low flame. Do this for about a day to kickstart the adsorption of the fennel extract by the oil.
  3. Store the container in a dry, dark place for a couple of weeks.
  4. When ready for, rub the oil extract gently on the babies tummy and chest to let the scent be inhaled as well. You can also place just a couple of drops on the babies lips. But it is best to consult a physician first.

Why should I grow Fennel?

The roots and seeds of the fennel are highly nutritious with lots of vitamins and minerals. The roots are apparently more palatable than that of the anise. Having a fresh supply of these ingredients will be a good addition to daily dishes.

The seeds meanwhile have a high anethole content but not too much. This will serve to prevent any risk of overdosing. People with constant digestive problems can have some fennel as another means to manage their condition.

This herb can be also helpful as a gentle remedy for parents with babies having a frequent upset stomach.

How to hydro grow Fennel

Fennel is a strong perennial herb that needs good irrigation to grow. (Our hydro system provide it just that). Its leaves look like feathers on thick stems. All the plant parts are edible. It likes to grow in full sunlight.

The best time to saw fennel seeds in spring. The sprouting time takes two weeks to a month. Saw the fennel seeds in the planter. Let it several weeks to mature before transferring them to the hydroponic system.

When growing hydroponically, it grows fast and can reach a height of 70-160 centimeter which is too large for the home. So prune often to keep it small and use the leaves in your salads.

It is recommended to cut off flowers as flowers weakening the plant.

Fennel sprout in seedling planter.

Fennel sprout in seedling planter.

 

Immediately check the impact of Fennel on your body

Growing fennel until it is matured enough to be eaten can take two months. If you want to test the impact of fennel on your body, you can order the following products from iHerb, and get them in about a week. Then you can make an educated decision whether you want to grow fennel or not.

References:


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18976688
Chemomodulatory action of Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) on skin and forestomach papillomagenesis, enzymes associated with xenobiotic metabolism and antioxidant status in murine model system.
Singh B., Kale RK.
Food Chem Toxicol.2008;46(12):3842-50.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20334152
Foeniculum vulgare essential oils: chemical composition, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities.
Miguel MG, Cruz C, Faleiro L, Simões MT, Figueiredo AC, Barroso JG, Pedro LG.
Nat Prod Commun. 2010;5(2):319-28.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16041731
A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of a standardized extract of Matricariae recutita, Foeniculum vulgare and Melissa officinalis (ColiMil) in the treatment of breastfed colicky infants.
Savino F, Cresi F, Castagno E, Silvestro L, Oggero R.
Phytother Res. 2005 Apr;19(4):335-40.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18976688
Chemomodulatory action of Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) on skin and forestomach papillomagenesis, enzymes associated with xenobiotic metabolism and antioxidant status in murine model system.
Singh B., Kale RK.
Food Chem Toxicol.2008;46(12):3842-50.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30386118
Efficacy of bio-optimized extracts of turmeric and essential fennel oil on the quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
Di Ciaula A, Portincasa P, Maes N, Albert A.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12868253
The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study.
Alexandrovich I, Rakovitskaya O, Kolmo E, Sidorova T, Shushunov S.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2003;9(4):58-61.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10412905.2016.1146169
Chemical composition, antioxidant activity and antimicrobial properties of three selected varieties of Iranian fennel seeds.
Shadi Chang, Abdorreza Mohammadi Nafchi & A. A. Karim
Chemical composition, antioxidant activity and antimicrobial properties of three selected varieties of Iranian fennel seeds, Journal of Essential Oil Research, 2016; 28:4, 357-363

https://draxe.com/homemade-baking-soda-toothpaste/
Homemade toothpaste recipe


https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/mjms.2011.4.issue-2/MJMS.1857-5773.2011.0173/mjms.1857-5773.2011.0173.pdf
Antidiabetic Activities of Foeniculum Vulgare Mill. Essential Oil in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats
Neveen Abou El-Soud, Nabila El-Laithy, Gamila El-Saeed, Mohamed Salah Wahby, Mona Khalil, Fatma Morsy, Nermeen Shaffie
Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences. 2011; 4(2):139-146