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I first had fennel only about three years ago, and was amazed that there was a vegetable / herb that could taste so sweet. It tastes of liquorice / aniseed, and can be either be grown as Florence fennel (which has an edible swollen bulb at the base) or herb / sweet fennel which doesn't have the swollen bulb and instead the feathery fronds are chopped and used a herb.
Here's how I grow mine, and also other little pearls of knowledge about fennel.
April is a good time to plant from seed as it is a Mediterranean crop so prefers our summer. It can be nurtured over winter, but requires quite a bit of TLC. To plant the seeds, pop them in a hole about a centimetre deep then cover with fine compost, or plant them into individual seedling pots. About 3 months after planting you should have a metre high plant with plenty of fronds to chop up and sprinkle onto all sorts of meals - more of that later. If you are growing Florence fennel, earth up the bulbous part of the stem (just above the soil) to blanch it and keep it sweet tasting as it swells. This should be ready to harvest around late August / early September.
Keep an eye out for the plant flowering and going to seed - it will spread all over your garden. Every year I have to play "hunt the out of place fennel plant" as it does spread quite quickly by itself if you haven't plucked off any flower heads that are starting to produce seeds.
The plants need a bit of space as they can grow quite big - go for about a foot apart between plants. They also like free draining soil and (strangely for a Mediterranean plant) not too much heat as this will make them bolt and go to seed quicker. It grows reasonably well in pots; I know this as 90% of my garden is grown in pots of some kind.
PESTS AND DISEASES COMMON TO FENNEL
In a word - slugs. They'll gorge on fennel if allowed. I prefer natural methods of pest control in my garden, but I must say that when it comes to slugs then the gloves of war are well and truly off. I read in a book recently that a man said "you don't have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency" and I thought, yep, very green and all power to you and your ducks, quacktastic. I, however, have recently applied for an explosives licence off the council and am awaiting the arrival of my internet ordered slug landmine combat assault pack. With a side order of napalm powered flamethrower. Be aggressive with the slugs when you are growing fennel or they will hurt you and your fennel plants. Other than slugs, fennel are relatively free of other pests and diseases which all helps to make it quite an easy plant to grow.
There are two types for eating and one type for architectural use in the garden. The edible types are Florence fennel (as mentioned above) and sweet fennel which is grown for its leaves. The architectural fennel type is known as bronze fennel and resembles sweet fennel but has a bronze tinge to its wispy leaves. Sorry to go all Diarmud Gavin here, but I'm a big fan of the bronze fennel and the way it adds elegance to a border when you have the odd one or two amongst slightly smaller plants - and best of all you can still eat bronze fennel so it's doubly useful.
For bulb / Florence fennel, a good variety is Fennel di Sicilia as it is bolt resistant (it gets damn hot in Sicily). For Bronze fennel, Fennel Purpureum is a good variety that has great colour on the leaves. For sweet fennel, I grow Florence fennel from seed and treat it as sweet fennel (ie - I chop off the leaves for cooking and bits of stem too) until the bulb is swollen and ready to pull - then I rip the whole plant out and use the bulb.
All parts of fennel are edible (seeds, leaves, stalks, bulb) - try chopping the stalk up and adding to a stir-fry, or chopping the feathers of the leaves and tossing through a salad. The bulb of a Florence fennel is wonderful when roasted and makes a tradition busting addition to Christmas Day dinner - bye-bye Mr Sprout. The Italians use fennel with all sorts of foods, including fish, eggs (it works really well in frittatas) and the seeds are added to sausages and breads. However, I'd say that if you're using chopped leaves in something like a Bolognese sauce then add these right near the end as heat will leach the flavour from the fine leaves.
Fennel is an ingredient of gripe water - anyone who has had small babies crying with trapped wind will know the benefit of gripe water. It's also a good source of vitamin C, fibre and protein and is thought to be good for eyesight.
All the usual suspects stock fennel seeds (Morgan and Thompson, Suttons etc) and also I've come across an internet company called "realseeds.co.uk" that stock a couple of different types, as do "seedparade.co.uk".
For a Mediterranean plant, it copes quite well with our summers and so long as you can keep slugs away from them, the plants will grow quite easily with a minimum amount of effort. I give fennel a very tasty five stars.
I'm quite into eating bits and bobs of plants and fungi and so on taken from the wild, but one of the rules I established early on was never to consume wild umbelifers - a group of plant that includes edible and well-known plants such as celery, parsley, lovage and fennel and the like - but also a number of really deadly poisonous look-a-likes (hemlock; giant hog weed; and a whole host of kill-you-horribly water dropworts).
So, I never eat wild umbelifers - with the exception of fennel, which is (touch wood) pretty much unmistakeable. In fact in a quasi-survival situation in the States I even tried some wild fennel growing in a marsh - which probably wasn't the cleverest thing to do, as in that country there may be poisonous similar plants that I'm not familiar with - but even then it was OK and I lived to tell the tale.
The plant is covered with very fine fronds of rich, almost blue-tinted bright green leaves borne on long, cylindrical (hollow) stems and can reach as much as a metre and a half high. The whole plant smells strongly of, well, fennel - it has a sweet aniseed aroma and flavour and the leaves can be used as a herb - they're good in tomato sauces and fish dishes in particular. The seeds have a role in various cuisines (including Indian cookery) can also be harvested in some abundance from the flowerheads once these have dried. The tall-growing 'herb' variety of fennel is different from the bulbous, white 'Florence' fennel you buy as a vegetable / salad ingredient at the grocer's. I understand that both bulb and herb fennel are varieties of the same plant, the bulb type having been bred to grow large, fleshy leaf bases whereas the herb type is more similar to the original 'wild' type plant.
Fennel is quite abundant in the British countryside though it's not a native plant here, having been introduced by the Romans from its natural home round the Med. In Britain, it tends to be found more often in coastal regions but that said, it's pretty frequent on waste ground too. I don't know if it's a proper halophytic (salt-loving) plant, but you often see it growing at roadsides and even in the central reservations of motorways / dual carriageways: these habitats are well known for being colonised by other salt-adapted / tolerant plants (such as the little white-flowered type of scurvy grass called Cochlearia danica, which is currently spreading along roadsides countrywide).
Fennel will grow on very poor soil, which I know because the previous occupier of my house - in her infinite wisdom - saw fit to spread gravel over the whole of the front garden (OH GOD! WHY MUST PEOPLE DO THAT!), including a thick, weed-proof membrane for good measure - which meant that at the time I finally managed to de-gravel the garden (after it'd been under six inches to a foot of dreadful-looking rubble for at least 10 years) there was only about two inches of topsoil left. The challenge then was to get it back into cultivation, by finding a load of plants that aren't too fussy about having good growing conditions. I found particularly good candidates amongst the common wayside flowers: ox-eye and Michaelmas daisies, golden-rod, red valerian, lilac and fennel all grow well even in my impoverished garden soil. The fennel (I put in a 'bronze' leaved variety as that's what they'd marked down in price at the local garden centre) has done particularly well this year, and gives much-needed 'height' in the bedding plots I've established. While the leaves on this are a bit darker than usual with fennel, the stems are a similar, bright, striking green colour and even now that the foliage is dying back a bit, the tall stems and flower-heads still look interesting / attractive.
The flower heads of fennel, incidentally, are much loved by hoverflies and other garden insects, so this is a good plant for 'nature friendly' gardeners as - apart from a tendency to pick up whitefly (which still doesn't seem to affect the fennel plant very much) it's generally trouble-free if sited in an airy and light spot. It does need good light to grow vigorously, I find.
Fennel is a biennial type plant, so the first year you put a new-grown seedling in, it stays pretty small, but in year two puts on a lot of height and leaf mass and eventually a collection of yellow-green tinted flower heads. I don't know if the rootstock will survive to put up new leaves next year (I hope it will) but the plant grows very easily from seed so it's easy to obtain replacements.
Fennel is a tall plant with feathery foilage and yellow flowers that turn into seeds.
It is thick perennial root stock and there are several varieties. The common fennel is stouter and has a taller tubular. The leaves of the common fennel are less divided than the other fennel plants. The bulbs of the fennel are white and tender and are used in salads, soups with fish and meat and braised as a vegetable. They have an aniseed flavour.
Other types of fennel are wild and sweet . These are cultivated for their seeds and leaves and are used to make teas, added to soups and stews, bread and puddings. They have a very strong aniseed flavour.
Fennel is largely cultivated in South of France, the Medditerrainean, Russia, India and Persia. They can be grown anywhere and can last for years in the ground if they are not dug up. The seeds are sown in April and they can be harvested in July and August.
They like a sunny position and can adapt to dry conditions.
Fennel was grown in Ancient Rome for its aromatic fruits and succulent edible shoots and was believed to have 22 remedies.
In medievial times fennel was used to ward off evil spirits and hung on front doors on midsummers eve.
Fennel is high in vitamins A and E, potassium and calcium.
It is very good for upset stomachs, I drink fennel tea when I have one and it does work, Clipper do a good organic tea. It is also very good for flatulence and colic. It is used to make gripe water for babies.
Fennel also helps increase milk flow in nursing mothers and it helps cleanse the blood. Fennel is beneficial for gout, shortness of breath, jaundice, cramps, muscular and rheumatic pain and conjunctivitis. It is also a god stomach intestial remedy.
You can make up a syrup using fennel seeds or the bulb and this is very good for coughs and very helpful.
Fennel is also disliked by fleas and the smell will drive them away from stables and kennels. You can also rub the bulb over your pet or make a solution with a little water and the juice and seeds of fennel and spray it on your animal to protect against fleas.
You can buy the fennel bulb in supermarkets, markets and fruit and veg shops and it costs between £1.49 - £2.99. It may not always be easy to purchase if it is out of season and will also be more expensive then.
Fennel seeds come in a jar and are called anis seed or star anis. These can be found with the herbs and spices in supermarkets and cost between £1.49 - £2.49.
They are very strong in flavour and only a small amount is needed. They are very good used in bread and buns.
This plant is quite often overlooked especially in the U.K but it has alot of culinary uses.
Fennel tastes like aniseed balls so if you or your children like them its worth using fennel in your cooking especially as it has health benefits
This review is about the herb Fennel, a very useful herb not only in the kitchen but also for medicinal purposes. Ill keep on doing the herb as it seems a lot of people are printing them out and saving them for future reference. I am just glad to help and I also enjoy knowing people like reading my reviews.
Fennel - Foeniculum vulgare
The herb Fennel is also known as Sweet fennel, large fennel and wild fennel. It grows well in Europe where the weather is warm and is also found in western USA. The ancient Greeks thought very highly of fennel and were used as a slimming aid and to treat other illnesses.
The Romans where thought to have spread the herb whilst on there travels across Europe, they used the fennel leafs and the roots in salads, and used the seeds in baking bread. The Anglo-Saxon used it on fasting days because it stills pangs of hunger, whilst in the Middle Ages fennel was used in stews and also to mask not very fresh food.
Fennel is thought to aid better eyesight and to help from poisoning from snake bites, and is some cases it is used near dog kennels as fleas are not to keen on the herb. It is also a good for companion planting as it attracts hoverflies which will help keep the whitefly at bay.
Fennel was an important component in wreath's which where made and hung above the door on Midsummer Day to keep the witches quiet.
Fennel - hardy perennial that can grow 4-7 ft in height, and will spread about 2 ft. Lots of yellow flowers in the summer, and soft green feather like foliage.
Florence Fennel - A annual which grows 3 ft in height, and grows yellow flowers in the summer with soft green feather like foliage. The base of the Florence fennel develops to form a white bulb vegetable, which is crisp and has an aniseed flavour, and is the one we see in the supermarket.
Sow all fennels early in the spring in seed trays or pots and cover with a thin layer of perlite, once the frost has passed and the fennel is large enough to handle plant out direct.
Fennel like a sunny position in good well drained soil, before planting put a handful of sharp sand in the bottom to aid drainage, you can use broken egg shells as they also help with the drainage.
Don't grow near Dill or Coriander as it will cross pollinate and reduce the fennel's seed production. Fennel even though it is known as a perennial it should be replaced every few years. The Florence Fennel can only be grown from seed and can be sown outside in shallow trenches in the early summer to produce the wonderful fennel bulb in the autumn.
A good tip - when the bulb is the size of a golf ball, blanch it by drawing some soil around it. In about 3 weeks it will have grown to a tennis ball size this is when it is ready to harvest.
Harvest the seeds, leaves and stems when required, the leaves can be frozen for later use. Collect the ripe seeds for sowing or leave them to dry to use in the kitchen.
Fennel is happy to grow in containers and it will need to be staked to stop the stems from bending over and snapping.
The seeds have the best medicinal value; made up into a tea it eases flatulence and heartburn. A teaspoon of the cooled tea is good for babies with colic (See Warning).
Make a compress and steep in the tea and place on the eyelids to ease inflammation or to help relieve watery eye.
To make a fennel tea
Place a teaspoon of the fennel seeds into a cup and pour on boiling water, and cover for 5 minutes, then strain and drink.
Fennel can be used in many different types of cooking from fish to bread.
When making your own bread add a handful of the seeds whilst you are making the dough, and when you place it in the oven get ready for a fantastic smell as it is cooking.
Fennel is also very good with lamb, pork and chicken, the leaves are very nice sliced and placed in a salads or try to roasting the seeds or the bulb whist roasting the vegetables for the Sunday tea.
I saw this recipe the other day on the www and thought I will give it ago soon
Fish with fennel - Serves 2
Whole fish - trout, mackerel or even mullet about a 1LB in weight each.
1 cup of fresh sprigs of fennel
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
Clean the fish and fill with the sprigs of fennel leaves. With a sharp knife score the fish on each side and brush with oil, season lightly with salt and pepper.
Arrange a bed of fennel sticks on the base of a greased oven proof dish, Carefully place the fish on the sticks and cook in a hot oven 230oC (gas mark 8) for 15 minutes.
To serve- Transfer the fish and the fennel stick on to a flat fire proof serving dish, warm the brandy and pour over the fish and set alight. The fennel will burn and the whole dish becomes wonderfully aromatic.
Fennel seeds and the leaves can be used in facial steams and in the bath to help with deep cleansing, and also a yellow dye can be obtained from the herb.
Taking in large doses, the essence can cause convulsions and disturb the nervous system. Pregnant women should avoid fennel
As with all herbal medicine do your researches before you use it
Thanks for reading my reviews, and thankyou for rating them.
Tashi Delek (May everything be well)
enlightened_one © 2007
Before writing this op I conducted a (non-representative) survey: do my British online friends know, grow, eat fennel? The result: they all know it, some grow it, nobody eats it.
Why do people grow fennel in their gardens if they dont eat it? Well, Foeniculum, the name given to this plant by the Romans (its derived from the Latin word foenum = hay) is a decorative addition to the herbaceous border, it can grow up to a height of 1,50 m and has umbels of tiny yellow flowers and dark green or bronze wispy leaves, when touched or rubbed between the fingers the plant exudes a pleasant anise-like flavour.
The Romans valued the young shoots as vegetable, the plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean lands, it can be found growing wild on dry soils near the sea-coast and on river banks (Ive seen it in Sardinia!); thanks to Charlemagne (742 AD 814 AD) who enjoyed its cultivation on the imperial farms fennel was distributed throughout Central Europe, it had found its way to Northern Europe already before the Norman Conquest, its frequently mentioned in Anglo-Saxon cookery books.
I doubt that many readers know about fennel as a medicinal plant, now that we have pharmacies we dont brew potions or stir lotions in a cauldron any more like our forefathers and mothers did, we buy our medicine ready made. From the net: fennel seed has been used as an antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, stimulant and stomachic and also as a remedy for hernia and to stimulate milk production, fennel water mixed with sodium bicarbonate and syrup has been used to correct the flatulence of infants. In medieval times fennel was considered a preventive of witchcraft and other evil influence, it was hung over doors on Midsummers Eve to warn off evil spirits.
Quite impressive, this plant, but its not its versatility as a medicinal plant that attracts me to it, when I think of fennel, I think of the bulbs of the so-called finocchio* fennel (also called Florence fennel), a special type produced for its thickened leaf bases. Many years ago in spring I travelled in the area of Naples, Pompeij and Paestum, I remember lorries parked at the side of the roads filled with fennel bulbs fresh from the fields that were sold to the people passing by.
[The Italian word for fennel, finocchio, is a widespread derogatory term for male homosexuals, Ive researched the origin of the term on Italian sites and found this explanation (summed up and translated into English): in former centuries fennel seed was traditionally used to flavour meat and especially sausages, it was cheap and valueless and a poor substitute for the costly spices from the orient, from this the saying to be like fennel in a sausage derived meaning to be without value and this was transferred onto valueless men.]
I dont know where the fennel bulbs you can buy in GB come from, in Germany we get Italian ones from the fields in spring and then for the rest of the year German ones from greenhouses. A good fresh bulb should be firm, white, the outer layer shouldnt show any cuts, it should have a minimum diameter of 5 cm (~ the fist of an adult).
How do I eat fennel bulbs? All my recipes come from Italy, I didnt know that one ate fennel bulbs before I discovered Italy, now I cant imagine living without this vegetable.
The outer layer is the thickest, if one throws it away because its dirty, there isnt much left of the bulb. I cut the bulb into halves, cut out and throw away the thick white core at the bottom, then take off layer after layer, peel the outer layer with a knife, wash the pieces and dry them with a tissue.
Recipe No I:
Simple does it! Put the washed and dried layers, cut into longish pieces, on a plate together with a sandwich, some people think they taste better when sprinkled with a bit of salt, others prefer the taste neat, fennel is crunchy, its a pleasure to eat it like that. You should test yourself if you like the taste at all, its said that people either love or hate fennel, if you discover that it isnt made for you, you can give it (in case you havent put salt on it) to your rodent pets, they will love you for it!
Wash, dry and cut the fennel into forkable pieces, mix with slices of tomato and cut some ruccola leaves into it (I cut ruccola with a pair of scissors over the bowl). Make a dressing of olive oil, balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper. This salad doesnt only taste well, it also pleases the eye, especially if you decorate it with some feathery fennel leaves that always stick at the bulb!
Fennel al forno (in the oven)
Wash, dry, cut the fennel into pieces and boil with some water and some salt for about 8 minutes, it shouldnt become too soft. Then put the fennel (without the water) in a pan with some oil or butter and stir it for about 5 minutes until it becomes brownish. Then into a pot which you can put into the oven (I have a glass pot in which I boil the fennel and which I can also put into the oven), cover the fennel with thin slices of medium mature Gouda cheese, shove the open pot into the oven and wait until the cheese has melted.
One bulb per person together with boiled potatoes make for a wonderful meal for veggies, meaties can eat the fennel together with a steak, of course.
My British research assistant Sue M. (hi!) has found out that the average price for 1 kg of fennel bulbs is 3.50 GBP.
Buon Appetito! Guten Appetit!
(Why dont English speaking people wish each other Good Appetite? What does this tell me about the British cuisine?)
Do you remember, when you were a child, going into the local sweet shop and asking for a quarter of aniseed balls? Well, this plant, when chewed, tastes exactly like those good old-fashioned sweets. The plant itself is quite easy to grow, but you do need a reasonable amount of room in your garden as it can grow to 6'. You may also find that it'll need protection if you have a late frost. I lost a Fennel plant last year - it was just starting to shoot, we had an overnight frost and the plant just gave up the ghost. The plant has beautiful, light, feathery, fernlike leaves and although the flowers are a little disappointing, being small, loose yellow umbels, the plant really is worth growing for the foliage alone. The leaves, seeds and flowers can be used in various recipes (and are recommended particularly as an accompaniment to fish) but I prefer to pull a lump off and just chew it!! Alternatively, wait until the flowers have seeded and then chew the seeds. Fennel's an excellent breath freshener and really does leave your mouth feeling tingly and fresh. The plant is an excellent natural remedy for indigestion and apparently it's good for repelling fleas!! Not sure how the latter works - I have two cats and I can't imagine for one moment they'd be impressed if I sent them out with a lump of fennel hanging round their necks!!
I love this plant! It's GREAT for filling in areas of a garden. It is so tall and soft looking! I like it in a raised bed behind some silvermound. Those two together are just breathtaking! If you cut it down at the end of the season (I'm zone 5), it seems to grow even bigger and bigger each year! Also it's a very inexpensive plant to buy. I keep mine in a sunny spot and make sure it's watered well when it's dry.
A very common plant in the Mediterranean and is easy to recognise by its fragrant feathery leaves and one type has a bulbous stem which provides a delicious vegetables. Like many herbs and spices fennel was once used medically and fennel boiled in water for 15mins is used to treat inflamed or tired eyes. It used to be hung over doors on Midsummer’s Eve to ward off spirits. The seeds once chewed prevent a feeling of hunger and was used in the olden days as a method of dieting. Fennel needs to be sown in the spring and should be kept away from Dill other wise it will cross-fertilize. The soil needs to be well drained and in a sunny spot. The leaves are used in fish dishes and salads mainly but in India is a main ingredient in curries especially dhals. The leaves are very nice when used with trout, mackerel or red mullet just mix with butter and place inside the fish when cooking. Fennel gives an aniseed taste and has a very distinct smell.
Fennel is easy to grow from seed sown straight into the earth, doing best in a sunny spot. Once it is established it will self seed and pop up by itself year after year. The plants have attractive frondy leaves and large white or yellow flower heads, a bit like cow parsley. They reach about three foot. This herb is worth growing purely for its appearance and rich aniseedy fragance but, if you are interested in using it, has a whole range of medicinal and some culinary uses. Traditionally Fennel has been used to settle the stomach and ease heartburn and indigestion. It is also reputed to help asthma and Culpepper suggests it might be of use to breastfeeding mothers. I make a tea by boiling up a few pieces of the fresh herb or steeping a couple of teaspoons of the dried plant in a pot of hot water but you can buy Fennel teabags in whole food shops and some supermarkets if you prefer. Fennel also goes well with fish and, if you cut the stalks just before they flower, you can eat them like celery.