Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Florence Fennel (F. vulgare azoricum), also known as finocchio, is an annual which is known mainly for the stem that swells to a "bulb" as it grows. It is similar to celery and can be used raw or cooked. It is very popular in Italian cooking. Fennel features prominently in Italian cuisine, where bulbs and fronds are used, both raw and cooked, in side dishes, salads, pastas, and risottos. Fennel seed is a common ingredient in Italian sausages and meatballs and northern European rye breads. can be used raw or cooked.

How to grow
Start indoors in late February in individual cells. Direct-seed from April to early July for a Fall harvest. Seeds will sprout in 10 to 14 days. Fennel seedlings are very sensitive to root disturbance, so we recommend you sow yours direct in the ground in late spring/early summer when the threat of frost has passed. Sow the seed thinly in 1cm-deep drills, 45cm apart. Well-drained and well-watered soil is required.

Days to maturity
approximately 100 days, Use a knife to slice the bulb from the root when it has thickened to 5cm (2") or more across. If this is done carefully, smaller bulbs will sprout from the root later.

The bulbs can be baked or boiled in soups or stews and can also be used raw in garden salads. The leaves and stalks are also useful for flavoring.

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