How to Grow Fennel Plants
If you’re looking for ways to improve your culinary experience, you have likely heard that the best place to start is with your ingredients. By using new and unusual products and looking for fresh, high quality items, you can create everything from excellent main courses to unique desserts for special occasions. This is especially true when it comes to fennel, an unusual, anise-like herb that can be used in a number of ways. The fennel plant has a number of health benefits, and the herb comes in a number of forms, from fennel seed to fennel pollen. However, some people like to grow fennel plants themselves to use in salads and other dishes. Read on for tips on growing this interesting, delicious herb!
Starting From Seed
While they are prized for their flavor and health benefits, fennel plants do not transplant easily and will typically need to be started from seed. To begin, gardeners should loosen up their soil as soon as the frost passes in spring, adding some sand for drainage if they have heavy or clay soils. The seeds should then be sown in an area with full sun, covered with a light layer of soil and watered frequently until they sprout their first few leaves. Fennel plants usually take seven to 10 days to germinate, and 80 to 90 days to harvest.
Fennel plants can either be grown for their seeds or their bulb, which is why many gardeners grow several plants to take advantage of all of its different options. If you are growing the plant for the bulb, however, you will notice that this part grows at the base of the stalk but not underground. As a result, you should hill up the soil around the bulb to keep it white and sweet-tasting. You should also continue to water frequently, unless you are interested in the seed, in which case dry weather will encourage the plant to go to seed. However, make sure your soil is well-drained to prevent root rot.
Fennel leaves can be harvested once the plants are established and growing well. Bulbs, however, should be harvested when they reach the size of a small tennis ball by slicing the plant off at the base, right at the soil line. Finally, fennel seeds can be harvested when the flower turns brown and dries on the plant. Because they spread easily, experts recommend using a bag or bowl to collect as many as possible to keep fennel plants from spreading all over your yard.
Once harvested, fennel bulbs and leaves can be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days. Meanwhile, if they are dried or stored in an air-tight container, fennel seeds can last up to six months. These ingredients can be used in a variety of recipes, but for a more potent taste with less effort, many cooks prefer to use fennel pollen. Used just like any other spice, fennel pollen provides that great fennel taste and smell that is sure to improve your culinary experience. Try it out today by shopping for spices online!