Sweet Fennel and Florence Fennel produce an edible swollen base and are grown as annuals unlike wild fennel which is a hardy perennial and has become a weed in some countries. It has feathery leaves and yellow flowers and was native to the Mediterranean.
Favourite Growing Conditions
Enjoys well-drained fertile soil rich in organic matter.
In mid or late spring sow seeds evenly and thinly in shallow drills spaced 30cm(12 inches) apart. When plants are grown for seeds then sow in early spring so seeds can be collected in autumn. Germination can be slow. In mild climates seeds can be sowed in autumn and will be ready in early spring.
Lift and divide congested plants in spring, as soon as the shoots appear. Replant young pieces from around the outside of the clump setting them 38cm (15 inches) apart. For a sizable base and good colour give plenty of water during dry periods. When the base has swollen to the size of an egg, cover it with soil and continue to add soil keeping the base covered. Remove the flowerheads as they appear and after 14 days the swollen base will be large enough to use.
Use the feathery foliage in salads or as a vinegar flavouring. Harvest bulbs before the flowers open. Where the plant is grown for seeds, do not remove edible flowerheads, gather the seedheads in late autumn, just before they are fully ripe. Dry them slowly and naturally on paper turning them daily.
Leaves can be used fresh or frozen but can be difficult to dry satisfactorily. Seeds can be stored in dry airtight containers in a cool place.