Botanical name: Foeniculum vulgare
How to grow it: Fennel is a very hardy perennial that prefers full sun, but seems to cope in partly shady conditions too.
Plants respond well to good drainage and regular watering, but handle periods of drought well too.
I grow mostly Florence fennel as it produces a bulbous vegetable and a little bit of Bronze fennel for it’s appearance. Both varieties produce good seed and plenty of leaf growth. The flowers preceding seeds attract wasps into the garden which helps keep pest levels down.
If you ever let a Fennel plant self seed, you’ll find it comes up everywhere in the following season – it’s up to you whether that’s good or bad – I just remove the ones I don’t want like a weed. To avoid rampant self seeding – cut the flower heads of early before they set seed.
You can grow fennel in pots, but I’ve found it can get straggly – the plant has a long tap root which doesn’t like being contained.
Nutrition: Great source of vitamins A,B,C & E, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium & manganese. Fennel has too many medicinal uses to list here, but it is a great tonic to your digestive system, promotes calmness and can improve libido.
Using it in the kitchen: Fennel is one of those unique plants in that every part of the plant can be eaten and is used widely. Generally speaking, all parts of the plant have a mild anise flavour.
Firstly the young leaves can be eaten in salads, in egg dishes and as a garnish.
The stems and base can be used as a fresh or cooked vegetable. I like to grow Florence Fennel for it’s thick base which I love to slow roast with garlic and olive oil. Can also be grated into salads, chopped into soups & sliced thinly into stir fries.
The seeds are used in curries and slow cooked meals, and can be chewed to suppress appetite or reduce sugar cravings.
The roots are delicious too as a roasted or steamed vegetable similar to parsnip
Fennel is a great survival plant as it self seeds easily and is hardy to most conditions.