Fennel, scientifically known as Foeniculum vulgare, is one of the most versatile garden plants that can be used as a vegetable, herb, and spice. Originating from the Mediterranean, it is a common plant found in Greek, European and Indian cuisine. A fennel plant may grow up to 3 to 5 ft in length with 4 to 10 cm long leaves and 30 to 40 tiny yellow flowers at the top. The base of the fennel has a crisp texture and the leaves are extensively used as a herb for flavoring in Indian recipes, both savory and sweet. Fennel is highly sought for its mildly sweet licorice-like flavor and it's health benefits which include better bone health, lowering high blood pressure, preventing heart diseases, boosting the immune system and improving metabolism. Fennel contains phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
The customary tradition of chewing fennel seeds after meals to freshen breath and improve digestion is a common sight in Indian restaurants.
Growing guide for Fennel
Fennel seeds can be started indoors or planted directly outdoors.
To germinate fennel successfully, prepare a nutrient rich seedbed with well-drained soil since too fertilized soil may reduce the aromatic flavour of the plant.
Seed should be sown at a depth of 1 to 1.5 inches leaving 10 to 15 inches distance between plants and 24 inches distance between rows.
The soil temperature of 16 to 32°C is ideal for the growth of fennel plant.
After sowing, water everyday until the shoots appear. Once shoots are visible, water twice weekly in moist soil and more frequently in dry soil.
Two most common pests that attack fennel are aphids and armyworms. Both of these pests have common natural predators like the ladybug and dragonfly.
The most important thing to ensure while preparing the soil for fennel is that the soil is well drained soil. If you’re planting in a pot, it is much more easier to control the properties of soil. Hence, choose an area of your garden/home that drains well.
Fennel grows well in cool temperature in the range of 16 to 32°C.
how to harvest
Fennel stalks should be cut just before flowering.
Seed heads should be collected promptly before they shatter.
The seed heads are ready to harvest when they turn brown in color.
Once the stalks have been harvested, the bulb can also be cleaned and stored.