Family: Apiaceae
Common Name: Foeniculum Vulgare

Fennel has a strong aniseed flavor which is often an acquired taste. All parts of fennel are used in food preparation, particularly in the Mediterranean region, although these ingredi­ents are now also used in cooking in many other parts of the world. The seeds, leaves and stalks are used to flavor fish stews and stuffings, and the seeds add an especially delicious taste to bread. Freshly chopped leaves can be added to potato salad, green salads, meat sauces and cheese dishes. The bulb is very crisp and often eaten raw in salads, particularly after a meal, to cleanse the palate and aid digestion. It is also delicious cooked, served with olive oil and parmesan cheese or tomato sauce.


F. vulgare, a native of Europe, is an herbaceous perennial which grows to 90 cm (36 in). It has hollow fleshy stems, light green, feathery leaves, flat clusters of yellow flowers in summer and pale green seeds, ripening to a yellow-brown colour in autumn. The variety azoricum, or Finocchio (Florence fennel), is smaller than the species and is grown for the swollen, bulb-like stem base.


Sow seed directly into shallow drills between spring and late summer, allowing 45 cm (18 in) between the rows. Thin seedlings to 30 cm (12 in) apart within each row. Use a well-drained soil, enriched with manure or organic matter, in a sunny location. Provide ample water to encourage growth and feed with a complete fertilizer. Weed control is essential. If grown for the swollen stein base, sow in late spring or early summer. Sowings of these bulb cultivars, especially bolt-resistant kinds, can also be made under glass in cell trays in spring and planted out in early summer. The leaves can be used about three months after sowing and should be picked when needed. When the stem base has reached about the size of a tennis ball, mound up the soil to blanch the bulbous base and cut off any flower heads. About two weeks later, cut away the base from the roots, hang in the kitchen and use immediately. Seed is generally harvested in autumn when the flower heads have ripened. Clip off the heads and sun dry them for a few days, shake out all the seeds, sieve out the rubbish and store the clean seed in airtight containers.


Zone 5, but Finocchio or Florence fennel is grown as a summer and autumn annual in all climates.

Fenestraria      Ferocactus