Most would decline politely (and probably confused) by the random offer of a smiling, licorice-smelling Italian stranger with his teenage daughter blushing red with embarrassment.He meant well though, because there is no flavor like a fresh fennel plant, and it’s an experience that many people are sadly lacking outside of an overpriced dish at some high-society eatery.The fennel plant is frost-susceptible even though it can be perennial in warmer climates, so chilly weather will probably mean the end of your aromatic endeavors until next spring.The attractively-striped caterpillar will become a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly for the small price of a few fennel fronds, so leave them alone and plant a few extra seeds and everyone is happy.Left to themselves, these plants grow huge — sometimes around 5 feet tall — and dominate wherever they’re sprouting with masses of feathery foliage.And while the flavor of those floofy fronds is delicious to humans, other residents of the garden don’t feel so friendly toward their Italian neighbors.Like walnut trees and several other invasive plants, fennel is allelopathic which means it releases chemicals into the soil that kills or limits the growth of any and all competition.I think of the poor, friendless fennel plant as a lone wolf in the garden so give it a place by itself where it can grow tall, feed pollinators, and not inhibit the rest of your harvest.The dried leaves are also a flea deterrent so throw a handful of fennel in the kennel (easy to remember) for happier dogs.For milder-tasting bulbs that are the attractive pale white and green featured in store-bought fennel, blanch them once they are the size of a chicken egg.To me it is a distinctly Italian experience, pairing well with citrus, fish, or spiced meat like sausage, but if you didn’t grow up with it, the flavor may have a bit of a learning curve.As the plant begins its feathery spread, you can pluck the dill-like branches and either chew them raw for instant fresh breath or steep them in a comforting tea that is excellent both hot and cold.One of my favorite summertime brews is sun tea with a handful of fennel leaves, lemon balm, and mint — naturally sweet, and so refreshing!When you harvest the tasty bulb of Florence fennel, cut it so a bit of the base and the roots are left in the ground.Even if you find the stalks too tough later in the season, they can still be simmered in a flavorful stock with other vegetables, or cooked alongside fish.A sprinkle of this currently trendy ingredient on a finished dish may make your kitchen feel like it deserves a Michelin star, but no one will have to pay the associated price tag.When the seeds form at the end of the umbel, collect some for next year’s planting and then use the rest as sausage spice, a warming ingredient to masala chai, a stand-alone tea to soothe an over-indulged stomach, or chewed straight for a naturally fresh mouth. .
Be Careful of Fennel's Evil Twin
Poison hemlock can easily kill an adult if as little as a spoonful of seeds or leaves are ingested.The ancient Greeks used poison hemlock to kill political prisoners, including Socrates.Mission priests would spread fennel stems on the floor so the pleasant aroma was released as the congregation entered.You can snip the lacy leaves as soon as they are large enough and use them as a flavorful, aromatic addition to salads and other cold dishes.Seeds are stronger flavored and lend an anise taste to baked goods, fish, meat, cheese and vegetable dishes.Beneficial insects, such as lacewings and ladybird beetles, feed on fennel pollen and nectar when aphids are not available.Common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) has small, yellow summer flowers and lime-green leaves.Cooked, the base has a light delicate anise flavor that makes a good counterpart to fish, fowl and bland meats such as veal.* Florence fennel requires one additional step to prepare its thickened base for use as a vegetable.Loosen the surrounding soil with a spading fork and carefully lift the plant out of the ground.They are involved with a variety of outreach programs, including the UCCE Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. .
Growing fennel — bulb, herb, pollen
Pam is the garden manager at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia.Many people grow fennel as the herb, for leaves and seeds, for salads, soups, fish dishes and teas.The worst disease is root rot, which can happen if your plants get waterlogged for too long.Here in zone 7, we sow Zefa Fino March 10, for April 10-26 transplanting, along an edge of a bed with parsnips, celery and (later) asparagus beans.If your climate and timing give you the choice, direct sow and thin, rather than transplanting, to reduce the likelihood of bolting.In northern latitudes, gardeners wait till the summer solstice to sow any bulb fennel.Transplant outdoors in mid-spring to late summer when plants are 3-4” tall, and 4-6 weeks old, before they become root-bound, and when they can be removed easily without disturbing the roots.The plants will grow 36” tall or more, and the stems and delicate foliage can be eaten or made into teas.Zefa Fino is more tolerant of stress than some of the traditional Italian varieties, so if your climate or timing is borderline, try this one.Preludio and Orazio (both 80 days) are F1 hybrids from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, that have a higher yield potential than open pollinated fennels.The two seasons for planting bulb fennel in zone 7 are March-April and July-August – the same dates that work for broccoli, beets and other cool weather crops.Rich, well-drained soil, regularly irrigated, and cool temperatures produce top quality bulbs.Mulching (with organic materials such as straw or hay) can be a good strategy to trap soil moisture and cooler temperatures in spring – the bulbs will be sweeter and more tender.If you leave them to grow larger, the plants will probably bolt and the flavor of the bulbs will quickly become bitter.Use a sharp knife or pruners to cut the bulb free just above taproot, right at the soil line.Bulb fennel is high in vitamin C, and is also a good source of calcium, fiber and potassium.According to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange www.southernexposure.com, medicinally, fennel stimulates digestion while reducing the likelihood of flatulence.Because it is an uncommon crop in this country, it is probably wise to offer your customers some guidelines on how to prepare and eat it.The color of the small seedlings of bronze fennel renders them almost invisible, so take care when weeding.The green leaf type is even easier and up to ten days quicker to grow.Fennel can be overwintered in mild areas (Zones 7-10) to provide seed the second summer.The feathery foliage has a sweet anise flavor and is a tasty addition to salads, cole slaw, and dressings.Fennel seeds are used in teas and tinctures as a digestive aid, expectorant, and a tonic for the spleen, kidneys, and reproductive system.Johnny’s warns that too much moisture at bloom time can prevent the formation of a good crop of seeds.Spread the freshly gathered seeds (plump and grey-green) in a single layer on a horizontal window screen.The feathery seedlings make an attractive ingredient for microgreen mixes and plate garnishes.Johnny’s sells a special variety called Grosfruchtiger for microgreens, although any kind can be used.In addition to producing pollen, fennel flowers come in small clusters that many beneficial insects like ladybugs like to feed upon.On the other hand, there's a pretty good chance that if you grow fennel on your farm, it will go to seed at some point, and here's how to harvest it.Tie the bags closed and hang them in a cool, dark and dry area with the stems pointing up.Tap the sides of the bags every couple of days for two weeks as the flowers dry.Tip the fennel pollen and other plant matter from the bag into a fine mesh strainer resting over a bowl or bucket.Sift the pollen through the sieve, to remove the other plant matter and the larger tiny wildlife.Collecting one ounce can take an hour, so a selling price of $15 suddenly doesn’t seem outrageous. .
IPCW Plant Report – California Invasive Plant Council
erect perennial herb, four to ten feet tall, with finely dissected, almost.feathery leaves and characterized by a strong anise scent originating from stems.clustered in large, rounded, umbrella-like groups (compound umbels), roughly.growing season plants usually include a mixture of living and dead hollow stems.Perennial herb, 3.3-12 ft (1-3.5 m) high with a characteristic anise or licorice scent.Roots: mature plants have a thick, deep taproot from which erect, solid glaucous-green stems arise.Inflorescence: compound umbel with 15-40 spreading-ascending rays, each 0.4-1.6 in (1-4 cm) long.narrowing tips, 5 small stamens, inferior ovary topped by two short styles.disturbed areas, especially weedy sites adjacent to fresh or brackish water, and.grasslands, coastal scrub, savannas, and the banks of creeks, estuaries, and.Dense local populations have been reported from Santa Cruz Island, in.fields around the San Francisco Bay region, Palos Verdes Peninsula (Los Angeles.and ditches throughout the Sacramento, Salinas, and San Joaquin valleys and.foothills, and in hillside pastures of most coastal counties from Mendocino.appears to be well drained, sandy soils, but it has been observed to thrive in.can exclude or prevent reestablishment of native plant species.drastically alter the composition and structure of many plant communities,.including grasslands, coastal scrub, riparian, and wetland communities.appears to do this by outcompeting native species for light, nutrients, and.water and perhaps by exuding allelopathic substances that inhibit growth of.absolute cover and reach heights of ten feet (Brenton and Klinger 1994).regrowth, and feral pigs will seek out and eat the roots, but mature stems are.stands are an edaphic climax, or whether another plant community will replace.of a restoration program, transitional communities will occur after fennel is.significant increase in native herbaceous species shortly after removal of.Flower production generally begins when individuals are eighteen to twenty-four months old.Seeds are dispersed by water, by animals, and by humans by clinging to clothing or mud on vehicles.fall and early winter, although some remain alive and begin to produce new.Data on germination rates, seed production, survival, and longevity, density, and viability of the seedbank would be useful for developing management programs.Management plans should include a survey of where fennel occurs, the current.spread (soil disturbance, moderate to heavy grazing) and reducing fennel density.larger restoration process that will require other actions to favor.impossible to completely eradicate fennel from wildlands, but reducing stand.when infestations are light and locally restricted (Dash and Gliessman 1994).Digging out individual plants by hand is preferred to plowing or bulldozing.minimally impact the spread of fennel stands (Dash and Gliessman 1994, Colvin.These techniques leave the roots intact, alive, and ready to support.short, because fennel recovers rapidly from cutting and begins to replenish its.root energy supplies (Brenton and Klinger in review, Dash and Gliessman 1994).and/or dense stands grazing will spread fennel further (Brenton and Klinger. .
Fennel is a tender perennial, which means the plant may make it through the winter in warm areas, but is sensitive to cold.Fennel flowers are edible, and make wonderful garnishes for fish, meat, potato, and tomato dishes.If you’re growing bulb fennel in pots, this means you have to leave several inches of room between the soil and the rim of the container when you sow.One good way to achieve this is to plant your container grown fennel in a tall grow bag with the top rolled down. .