If you have never tasted fennel, you are missing a treat. Also called Florence fennel, it can be eaten raw, used to flavor soups and pasta, deep-fried, or sautéed and added to gravy served over steaks! Feathery leaves are attractive in the garden and are a fresh garnish to fish, chicken, tomatoes, and sauces. Seed can also be harvested as a spice.
• Botanical Name: Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum
• Family: Apiaceae
• Native: Africa, Asia, and Europe
• Hardiness: Perennial in USDA zones 4–9; grown as an annual.
• Plant Dimensions: Foliage from 2'–4' tall; the "bulb", 3"–4" diameter at the base
• Variety Information: The crunchy, dense, licorice-flavored "bulb" is comprised of tightly layered, overlapping, swollen stalk ends. The feathery foliage looks similar to dill, but has a delicate, anise flavor. The seeds also taste similar to anise or licorice.
• Exposure: Full sun
• When to Sow Outside: "For "bulb": Midsummer for fall harvest is optimal; ideal soil temperature is 60°–75°F. In cool summer areas (under 75°F): 1 to 2 weeks after average last frost. Mild Climates: Sow in fall for cool season harvest. For foliage only: Every 3 weeks after average last frost until midsummer.
• When to Start Inside: 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost (recommended for spring "bulb" production). Use biodegradable pots for transplant.
• Days to Emerge: 7–14 days
• Seed Depth: ¼"
• Seed Spacing: A group of 3 seeds every 10"
• Row Spacing: 10"
• Thinning: When 1" tall, thin to 1 every 10"
• Harvesting: BULBOUS STEM BASE: Harvest any time after the base begins to fatten, and before plant begins to bolt. Cut just below the soil surface. LEAVES: Can be clipped for fresh use almost any time after plant becomes established. SEEDS: Harvest seeds when they turn from yellow green to grey green. If allowed to turn brown, they may fall to the ground before you can harvest them.