How to grow fennel to use as a vegetable and an herb

I hope you were enjoying the warm weather a few days ago. One week below freezing, the next week 60-70 degrees. You must love the weather in central Missouri.

I would like to introduce both vegetables and herbs, depending on the varieties I am growing.

Fennel. First of all, I’ve only grown fennel once, but thinking about it, I decided to plant it again this year. The type depends on which part of the fennel plant you want to use (bulbs, leaves, or seeds).

Florence fennel is grown for its bulbous stem and can be eaten raw, grilled, or roasted. Because it resembles celery, the thick stems that grow from the bulb are also edible.

Herb fennel does not produce the same bulbous stems. Cultivated for its delicate leaves used as an herb. The herb fennel also produces seeds that have a licorice-like flavor (like the rest of the plant) and is used in seasoning. .

Fennel grows best in cool climates – not too hot, but not frosty. After the soil warms up, the seeds can be planted directly into the garden, but transplanting will help give spring a head start. increase. We all know how quickly summer heats up in central Missouri.

It takes about three months for fennel to produce bulbs, so if you do the math, you should start seeding towards the end of February for a late spring to early summer harvest.

Plant fennel transplants in a sunny location. Like most garden plants, it prefers well-drained soil mixed with compost. Keep plants about 12 inches apart. Keep the bed moist and feed the fennel plants with liquid fertilizer about every two to three weeks.

Fennel bulbs grow at the base of the plant just above the soil surface. For better flavor and to keep the bulbs from turning green, when the bulbs are about 2 inches long, create a mound of dirt around them to block the sun. This is called branching. Your fennel bulbs will be sweeter with extra care.

Cut off any flower stalks that may form to prevent the bulb from splitting. When it’s time to harvest, use clippers to cut under the bulb and cut off the taproot.

When the bulbs are about 2 inches in diameter, up to the size of a tennis ball, the fennel is ready. Cut just below the bulb at ground level.

Harvest leaves whenever needed (do not take too many at once).

Harvest the flower heads after the seeds have formed and the flower heads have died.

Remove the seeds and dry them in a cool, dry place. Fennel doesn’t store very well, especially with the leaves on. Remove the leaves and use them to flavor soups, stews, and stocks. If you leave the leaves as they are, they will absorb moisture and soften the bulbs.

Happy gardening!

Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and participates in the MU Extension’s Master Gardener Program.Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]

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