Posted by: briellethefirst | July 10, 2011

Fennel


Foeniculum vulgare looks a lot like dill and tastes like licorice. My Dad’s fennel grew bout 5′ tall. It’s easy to grow from seed, even in so-so soil, but plant it away from dill and other plants it could cross with (like anise, parsley or caraway) or it’ll cross-pollinate and the babies won’t taste or smell like either parent. It has gone wild in the abandoned garden on the west side of my house under my queen’s  bower vine so it does well with neglect in dry soil.

Fennel in the forgotten garden

Fennel in the forgotten garden

Fennel foliage

Fennel foliage

It has thready foliage, yellow flowers and is a perennial in many warm places but I always grew it as an annual. I don’t use fennel much outside of spaghetti sauce, so I don’t mind when it gets chomped on by the black and white or black and yellow caterpillars. They grow up into swallowtail butterflies and the fennel, dill, parsley and whatever usually recover, so I get double niceness with only putting up with a bit of down-time in the Umbelliferae plants. OK, the family’s been changed to Apiaceae, but I rather miss the other very descriptive family name. While caterpillars like fennel, apparently fleas don’t and powdered fennel is supposed to keep fleas out of kennels and stables. It’s worth a try, since it smells nice and shouldn’t hurt animals.

Fennel flowers

Fennel flowers

It is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe, along with wormwood but most people will be more familiar with its use in sauce for spaghetti and pizzas or at least in the sausage used in the sauces. If you find pretty tins of pastilles candies in rose, lavender and violet flavours the little white candies will each have a fennel seed in the middle. The seeds are also used in  breads and cuisines of India, China and the Middle East. Some varieties of fennel form a bulbous base that you can eat raw or cooked as a vegetable sautéed, stewed,  even grilled. Have fun playing with it, even if you try to photograph it in the wind with a shaky hand.

Seedhead ready to harvest

Seedhead ready to harvest

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