Fennel – Growth and Harvest

Q: What tips do you have on growing fennel?

A: There are two kinds of fennel: herb fennel is known for its aromatic seeds and tender, fragrant leaves. It has a wonderful anise-like flavor. Florence fennel, commonly called finocchio, develops a bulb-like base that is used fresh or steamed. Plant a few seeds of either in a sunny spot now and repeat the process every week until mid-April. Harvest herb fennel leaves when the plants are six to ten inches tall. Keeping the plants cut back will extend the harvest but eventually the plants will bolt and make flower stalks. To harvest seeds, cut the heads when the seeds are mature but before they begin to shatter. Hang the heads upside down in brown paper bags to finish drying, catching the seeds as they fall. Cover finocchio bulbs with soil to blanch them when they are two inches in diameter. Harvest the bulbs before they bolt in hot weather.