Growing Fennel

July 8, 2010 § 2 Comments

While classified as a herb, Fennel is a popular European vegetable too. Native to the Mediterranean, the base and stalk is popular eaten raw like celery, cooked, or boiled. Closely related to Parsley. The leaves and seeds taste like anise/liquorice.

Ancients believed Fennel seed was particularly helpful in eyesight. It was also believed to increase strength. In ancient Greece, it was considered a symbol of success. Today, Fennel seed is widely used as an after-dinner breath freshener and help in digestion.

Very easy to grow. Maybe too easy?


In one summer Fennel can be grown twice if starting early, after the first frost. Fennel is grown from seed. Directly sow seeds into the garden, in a loamy soil. Fennel will grow in almost any soil as long as it’s well-drained, although it will produce more foliage when soil nutrients are high.

It is possible to grow seedlings first, as I am doing because I haven’t found a location yet, but I will have to transplant before the seedlings even make themselves visible because they do not transplant well. Where O where?

Fennel readily reseeds itself. Remove unwanted seedlings before they develop long tap roots that will be difficult to pull up.

Space seedlings or thin plants 30 cm apart, minimally 60 cm apart. Start a new planting in mid summer to harvest in the fall. Or count on reseeding. Be careful, it really does. A lot. Some people are convinced this herb could survive a nuclear blast … and are really sorry they ever, ever, ever started on growing fennel in their garden.

Because it can grow very high (2 m), it needs a location sheltered from strong winds.


Full sun and a well drained soil. They do best in rich soils, but can take less rich soils. Needs a good watering over dry periods, once or twice per week. Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a growth season.

Keep away from dill or coriander when planting, as they may cross pollinate, reducing crop.


Green-fly. Grow garlic, chervil or yarrow nearby.

Gathering and harvesting

Harvest leaves at any time. Harvest flower heads after seeds have formed and the flower head has died. Extract seeds and dry them in a cool, dry location. Harvest bulbs when they reach tennis ball size or bigger. Pull every other one out as needed to allow those remaining to grow even bigger.

Do not pull out at signs of first frost. They can take it.


The ancient Chinese believed it could cure snake bites. Maybe best to go to hospital nowadays. Quickly now. Chop, chop!

Pliny the Elder used it in twenty two remedies. He even thought it sharpened sight. And in good galdr group mind tradition, many European herbalists believed it too.

In medieval times fennel was used together with St Johns Wort to keep away witchcraft and other evil thiiiiiiiings.

Fennel seed tea or liquid ~ 10 gr. to 150 cm3 water ~ can help prevent the common cold.

It is a carminative (expels gasses) ~ cook 1 tablespoon in a cup of milk for 5-10 mins, and drink warm ~ to stimulate the intestinal system (tastes horribly). Can be combined with a warm compress ~ half water half vinegar. It is available in powder form for the latter.

Gurgling with fennel seed liquid is also used.

It may not ward off witches, but it can certainly be used as insect repellant.

Recipes containing fennel

The bulbs and stalks can be eaten raw like celery.

The seeds along with marjoram, thyme, summer savory, basil, rosemary, and lavender make up the famous mix of herbs known as Herbs de Provence.


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