Seed Count: Approx. 120 seeds
Days to Maturity: 90 Days
Description: Florence Fennel is an easy to grow, tasty herb often used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. Fennel grows to about 3-6 ft. tall, with feathery foliage, that's fern like in appearance. It grows on celery like stalks, attached to a white bulb like base. Its mild licorice/anise flavored leaves are used to flavor salads, soups, and fish dishes. While its bulb is often braised, stewed, sauteed, grilled, or eaten raw as a vegetable. Fennel seeds are also used for culinary purposes, and are a key component in Italian sausages. If allowed to flower, your pollinators and beneficial insects will also thank you.
How To Grow
Sowing: To start indoors, sow your seeds 1/4" deep, in peat pots/pellets to minimize transplant shock, about 1 month before your last frost. Seeds need temperatures between 65-75 degrees for the best germination. Fennel can also be direct sown, once soil temperatures reach at least 65 degrees. Direct sow your seeds in an area with full sun and fertile, well draining soil, about 1/4 inch deep, and 8 inches apart. Once their true leaves start to show, thin to the strongest plants leaving about 12 inches of space in between them. When transplanting seedlings, make sure to space them 12 inches apart as well.
Growing: Fennel is super easy to grow. Just make sure you keep fennel well watered, especially in hot weather, as dryness will result in tough bulbs and early bolting. Mulch your plants to conserve water and to control weeds that may compete for water and nutrients. As the stem begins to swell, hill up loose dirt around the base, the way you would with potatoes. This blanches the bulb, resulting in the bulb to be whiter, and more tender, while providing the plant with proper support as it grows. Pests aren't a big issue for this plant, besides slugs, which can devastate them. Fennel isn't the best companion plant, so be careful where you plant it. However, pollinators love it.
Harvesting: As soon as Fennel reaches a good size, you can start to harvest its leaves and stalks as you need them. Fennel, as well as most other herbs, are best picked early in the morning. Fennel bulbs taste best, when harvested at a nice tender size of 4 inches, however, you can also allow them to get bigger, they just won't be as tender. Harvest the entire plant, when harvesting the bulb, and use within two days. To save seeds for future growing or for culinary use, allow the heads to develop and dry on the plant. Seeds will turn brown. This is when you can cut off the heads and spread them out to dry (I just leave mine on the plant and cover with jewelry bags to catch any dried seeds that may fall). If seeds are left on the plant to drop, they'll easily reseed themselves, and can be pretty aggressive. Rub seeds gently together, in order to separate the seeds from the heads, then store in an air tight container for later use.