Feature Wednesday – Fennel

Admittedly until a few years ago I didn’t know what Fennel was. Since then we have come to love this frilly cousin to the carrot. Here’s why:

▪︎ It freezes well! We tend to avoid blanching if at all possible and fennel – root & fronds – do well without it. Frozen Fennel goes well in soup & smoothies!

▪︎It does prefer to be planted in soil rich in organic matter however if you do so very little care besides the normal weeding and watering is needed. As you can see in our photo below, some weeding is needed for ours!

▪︎Butterflies love it & we love the butterflies so why NOT grow fennel! Each year we leave fennel in the beds just for them. The Black Swallowtails lay eggs on them and the little caterpillars come into the world ravenous! They devour the Fennel quickly. We collected one of the cocoons and got a butterfly. You can see that video here.

▪︎It freely self sows if you allow it to go to seed! These self sown plants are really strong for us.

▪︎You have the potential to get three harvests – several harvests of the fronds, one from the bulb, and if you choose to leave the bulb in the ground then you can harvest the seeds which are often used in cooking.

▪︎It deters aphids. Try putting potted Fennel near plants that attract aphids.

Cons…

▪︎ It has a strong licorice like flavor that’s not tolerable for some.

▪︎ While it can tolerate some frost we have found that it will show signs of stress with sustained freezing temperatures.

▪︎Fennel is allelopathic which basically means it doesn’t like roommates. Other crops tend to struggle growing near it due to its releasing certain chemicals into the soil. Currently we have some self sown kale & arugula growing near ours but we have noticed their growth seems to be stunted.

So what do you say to Fennel – yay or nay?