Green garden Fennel is a handsome and popular perennial herb, often planted on its own for impact or combined with bergamot in flower borders. With plenty of humus and water in dry weather, plants develop into magnificent clumps of airy feather foliage, crowned in late summer with large heads of tiny flowers. The seeds are as useful herbally as are the leaves, and may be left to ripen as a crop.
Fennel has a sweet aroma and an aniseed flavour. Use leaves in fish stock, sauces and stuffings and in mayonnaise, flavoured butters and salad dressings. The dried stalks can be placed under grilled or barbecued fish. At the two-leafed stage, the seedlings make a pungent addition to salads. The stronger tasting fennel seeds have a flavour more like aniseed or liquorice, they can be used as a spice, particularly in cakes, breads and stuffings.
The Fennel plant grows erect with a thick root and stout stems. The leaves grow to 40 cm long and are finely dissected into fronds. The bright golden flowers, produced in large, flat terminal umbels, with from thirteen to twenty rays, are in bloom in July and August.
Herb Fennel should not be confused with Sweet or Florence fennel, an annual vegetable grown for its swollen bulbs.
This seed has been organically produced. The seed has been harvested from plants that have themselves been raised organically, without the use of chemicals.
Sowing: Sow direct from March to May.
Fennel will grow in most any soil, but the richer the soil, the more tender the foliage and the less aromatic the seed. It likes a well-drained, sheltered but sunny position. It is easily propagated by seeds. Seedlings do not transplant well, so it is better to sow directly in the garden in the late spring. Plant them 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) apart and then thin them out as necessary. It grows a very deep taproot which is difficult to pull up, so remove unwanted seedlings while young.
To maintain a continuous supply of fresh leaves throughout the season, sow a few seeds every 10 days. If seeds are not desired, remove flower heads to promote bushier growth. Fennel can be grown as an annual, although the established roots will overwinter easily. For more plants, divide the roots in autumn after the seeds have been harvested. To keep the plants healthy it should be replanted every three to four years. If allowed, the plant will self-sow generously.
If fennel is being grown exclusively for its foliage, remove the flower heads to prevent it from self-seeding. When flowers have finished them cut back to 30cm (12in) from the ground.
Once the stems reach full size the seeds appear after a few weeks. They can be harvested around the end of August. Loosely secure a permeable bag (cheesecloth or muslin) around each flower head to collect any premature seed releases. When a plant is ready (the seeds will turn brown) cut the plant.
Fennel leaves will keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. The stalks can be used fresh or dried. Hang the plants in a warm dry place over a cloth; when they are dry, place them into a bag. Then thresh the lot: beat the bag against a hard surface to dislodge the seeds. Sift the loose seeds to remove the chaff. Dry and store, in an airtight container n a cool, dark place. They will keep for 2 to 3 years.
Fennel has a sweet aroma and an aniseed flavour. Use leaves in fish stock, sauces and stuffings and in mayonnaise, flavoured butters and salad dressings. The dried stalks can be placed under grilled or barbecued fish. At the two-leafed stage, the seedlings make a pungent addition to salads, reminiscent of mustard. The stronger tasting fennel seeds have a flavour more like aniseed or liquorice. They can be used as a spice, particularly in cakes, breads and stuffings.
Fennel tea, formerly also employed as a carminative, is made by pouring half a pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of bruised Fennel seeds.
People chew the seeds to freshen their breath and it is an ingredient in natural toothpastes. It is one of the plants which is said to be disliked by fleas, and powdered Fennel has the effect of driving away fleas from kennels and stables.
Many plants dislike fennel and grow poorly when forced to share space with this strong herb especially beans, tomatoes and kohl rabi.
Fennel is allelopathic to most garden plants, inhibiting growth or causing them to bolt. It actually kills many plants. Never plant fennel near carrots, coriander or dill as they may cross-pollinate. Dill is the only thing you can plant with fennel.
On a positive note the foliage and flowers attract beneficials such as ladybugs, syrphid flies, tachninid flies, beneficial parasitoid wasps and hoverflies Fennel is a good flea repellent. An old saying says to "plant fennel near your kennel" to deter fleas. Dried fennel leaves provide additional flea repelling insurance when put inside the dog house or kennel.
Fennel - strength - believed to have magical powers in the Middle Ages - it was hung over doorways to keep witches out.
"Finocchio" is the proper Italian--and more or less universal European--name for this herb. But be aware that, in Italian, the word is also slang--a rather vulgar, pejorative, and definitely not politically correct epithet!
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2 grams Average Seed Count 250 Seeds Seed Form Natural Common Name Herb Fennel, Green Fennel Other Common Names Finocchio Other Language Names IR. Finéal Family Apiaceae Genus Foeniculum Species vulgare Hardiness Hardy Perennial Height 180cm (70in) Spread 60cm (36in) Position Full Sun / Partial Shade Soil Well-drained/light, Dry, Sandy Time to Sow Sow in spring, March to May.