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Florence Fennel65 to 100 days — Fennel can be started indoors about six weeks prior to your last expected frost date or succession sown, directly into the garden from early spring into July for a nearly year-round supply of fresh bulbs. Once the plants have developed an egg-sized bulb at their bases, hill soil up around them to keep them blanched as they grow. Do not plant near dill, caraway or anise as they are in the same family and flavors can be affected.
Foeniculum vulgare dulco
Foeniculum vulgare dulco
Also known as Finocchio or vegetable fennel, the plants have a sweet, celery-like flavor with a hint of black licorice. It can be baked, boiled in soups, and also used raw, finely sliced into garden salads. For Italian-American family gatherings, fennel can often be found thinly sliced on veggie platters and used as a crispy palate cleanser. The young leaves and stalks can be harvested, as needed, for flavoring recipes.
Although both anise and fennel possess a mild, black licorice flavor, they are not the same plant. This is a common confusion in America where vegetable fennel bulbs are sold in grocery stores as either anise or fennel. All parts of the fennel plant can be used where only the seeds of anise are used.
Fennel is hardy to about 20ºF, is a biennial or perennial in warmer zones (7 and higher), but is generally grown as an annual. Each packet contains 0.5 gram, which is approximately 70 seeds.
Start indoors in the early spring, four to six weeks prior to your last expected frost date. The optimal temperature range for germination is from 60ºF to 70°F. Transplant into the garden, four to six inches apart, in early spring after all danger of frost has passed. Fennel prefers locations with rich, well-drained soil that receives full sun. Give your plants plenty of room to develop properly. Final spacing after thinning should be eight to twelve inches apart. For the sweetest, crispiest, largest bulbs, maintain consistent soil moisture throughout the season. Informational Reference:
- "Fennel in the Garden," by Ken Adams and Dan Drost, Utah State University, 2012. [PDF]
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