Thursday, June 2, 2011

How to Grow Fennel

Site: Fennel needs moist, fertile, well-drained soil and full sun.

Propagation: Sow seeds on 6" spacing in the spring after danger of frost has past or purchase pre-started plants from your local garden center. Keep soil moist until seeds have sprouted. Plant fennel in successive crops to ensure a steady supply. Planting just one plant then letting it go to seed will give you plenty of plants to contend with the following years - perhaps too prolific.

Growing: It will make remarkable growth the first year, providing plenty of foliage to harvest. The second year plants will reach full height and continue to be prolific in the garden.

Harvesting: Harvest leaves any time after plant becomes established. These leaves can be used fresh or frozen. Stems can be harvested in late summer. To collect seed cut flower heads just as the seeds turn brown and dry them in a paper bag. Once dried separate the seed and store in an air tight container.

Culinary Uses: This tall, graceful Mediterranean herb (do not confuse it with Florence fennel - a vegetable grown for its swollen stem base) has a delicious sweet licorice scent and is often interchangeable with dill in recipes. Use the chopped foliage for fish, salads, vegetables and soups. The seeds are highly recommended for cooking with oily fish such as mackerel.

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