Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘Fennel’

Fennel: handy for stealing fire from the gods

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare is another of those feathery herbs, with umbels of small yellow flowers, that makes an excellent predator attractant. It attracts hoverflies, which will then keep the aphids under control, as well as parasitic wasps and tachinid flies.

In Greek mythology Prometheus used the stalk of a fennel plant to steal fire from the gods. Nowadays we tend to grow fennel for its looks as an ornamental but also make use of the leaves in salads or as a garnish. The leaves are apparently an excellent accompaniment to snails, olives and fish dishes. Whole, ground or cracked seeds can be used to flavour bread, biscuits, fat meatrs such as pork and sausages, in particular finocchiona an Italian salami. The flower heads can also be used to flavour capers. Dried stems also have a use for barbecuing fish and the bulbs of Florence fennel can be used as a root vegetable.

Foeniculum vulgare is a tall, clump forming biennial or perennial depending on the climate. Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce syn. var.azoricum) is a smaller plant with bulbous stalk bases. ‘Mammoth’ is a slow bolting Florence fennel best sown in the autumn. ‘Perfection’ is a fast growing Florence fennel developed for northern climates so might suit those in the North of the UK better.

If you’re looking for something a bit different try bronze fennel ‘Purpureum’. With its deep brown foliage Bronze fennel makes a lovely contrast in an ornamental vegetable garden or herb bed. ‘Smokey’ is a superior bronze fennel with a sweet, liquorice like flavour.

Fennel can be grown from seed sown in Spring after any frosts. Seeds will germinate at 13-18 °C. It likes a sunny position in a fertile, well drained, loamy soil. On clay soils and extra layer of sharp sand will help it settle in. Avoid planting your fennel near dill or coriander as cross pollination will reduce seed production. You can also create more plants by division and of course it will self seed.

Some pictures of fennel.