Growing Fennel, Common and Florence Fennel
Fennel, Common and Florence
Common and Florence fennel (also known as finnochio) are two forms of the same species. Although Florence fennel is better known as a vegetable — its swollen stem bases, resembling bulbous-ended celery, may be eaten raw or cooked — it is included here because its leaves, like those of common fennel, are used for flavouring sauces and pickles and with grilled. Common fennel is a decorative plant, available also in a golden-leaved form suitable for an ornamental part of the garden. It is a bushy perennial growing about 1.8 m (6 ft) high and seeds itself freely; the seeds are also used for flavouring. Florence fennel grows to about 600 mm (2 ft), but as it is dug up for use it gets no chance to seed itself and is best
planted in the. One or two plants of common fennel will be sufficient for most families; grow as many Florence fennel plants as you feel you might need – the flavour is rather aniseedy.
Fennel may be sown at most times of the year, but April is probably the most convenient time; in the common form growing points should be about 300 mm (12 in) apart. Common fennel may also be bought as a small potted herb. Sow Florence fennel in small blocks with the plants about 150-200 mm (6-8 in) apart.
A sunny, well-drained site is best for both types, and Florence fennel must be kept moist to swell the stem bases. Most soils in good condition are suitable; before sowing, sprinkle on a dusting of general fertiliser. Keep the weed-free.
Slugs and snails are especially fond of Florence fennel, and pellets should be sprinkled to prevent their attacks. Greenfly may infest the flower heads and can be dealt with by use of a suitable insecticide.
Common fennel is harvestable as soon as sufficient leaves have developed. To keep up a supply, cut a few shoots down to the base; new ones will quickly bush up. Florence fennel should be harvested when the stem bases are swollen; thereafter the leaves may be picked as required. Some people blanch the Florence fennel bases by placing a cardboard col lar around them for a while before harvesting; soil or peat can also be used for this purpose. Leaves of both forms may be preserved by deep freezing.
Varieties of fennel are seldom offered, although the golden form of common fennel is sometimes available. The Florence fennel variety ‘Perfection is recommended but is not often available.
Soil: Most, well-drained but moisture-retentive
Harvest: As required in summer and autumn