When it comes to fennel, there are two main types to consider: herb fennel and the white bulb-type vegetable. Both make wonderful additions to a kitchen garden, but our focus here is on the herb variety.
Growing tips and facts
Common sweet fennel looks a lot like dill with its green feathery, wispy foliage. Other varieties of herb fennel are prized as ornamentals due to their beautiful bronze or red leaves. In mid-to-late summer, fennel puts on a modest display of delicate yellow flowers.
Fennel is short-lived, but it will reseed naturally if given an opportunity. Plants reach 3-5 feet at maturity, so make sure you provide ample room for the varieties you select in your garden.
Fennel prefers full sun and rich, well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant once established, but needs ample water until it becomes established.
Position plants carefully from the beginning – fennel does not transplant well due to its deep tap root.
Tips for using and preserving herb fennel
Fennel foliage can be harvested as needed by snipping off fronds.
Fennel and fish make the perfect pairing, regardless of how you prepare it. Just place a few fresh stalks next to the fish while it is cooking. You can also add fresh fronds to salads or soup. It can also be use as a garnish on a variety of dishes.
To collect the seeds, allow your plants to flower. Once the flowers turn brown, carefully cut the stalks and place in a paper bag upside down. Once inside, hang upside down by the stems in a cool area. Place the paper bag underneath to collect the seeds as they drop out. Once the seeds have dropped, rinse and dry thoroughly before storing in an airtight container.
Fennel seeds are often used to make sausage or in other savoury dishes. They are great as a pizza topping when paired with goat cheese, thinly sliced prosciuto, fresh figs and spicy arugula.
Foliage can be frozen for use in soups and stews. It can also be air dried and stored in an airtight container for future use.