Fifteen reasons to grow fabulously flavoursome gourmet florence fennel

I just harvested Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var azoricum) seeds in my garden, nibbling a few as I garden. They are sweet and flavoursome and help to stave of the hunger pangs before dinner. 

I now have a great bunch of seed stalks as a centrepiece in my living room. They are an interesting structural decoration while I get organised to pull off the seeds. I love their star-like form. 

Fennel is another of the easy abundant plants I value highly in my garden and as you read this I think you’ll understand why I feel this way. 

1. Fennel contributes to an abundant harvest

You can harvest over 100,000 culinary and medicinal seeds from each mature every year, and the amount of leaves are so copious, there is no way I can eat all of them in my salads.

Fennel takes about 90 days to produce bulbs, but don’t wait just for that bit!  You can start eating little bits of leaf as soon as it sprouts - the micro greens are delicious in salad too. Just before fennel flowers harvest the bulbs, but leave the main root system in the ground. it will keep producing more.

Star structure of seed heads

2. Fennel is hardy and adaptable

Fennel is native to the Mediterranean area but is now cultivated around the world. Fennel can grow in all different types of zones - for some it’s an annual, others a biennial, but for me, it’s a hardy perennial.  My patch of fennel has been growing for several years now. It’s the start of spring and mine is just starting to re-sprout from the base. I gave it a good serving of compost, a bit of a water and a large covering of mulch.

Here in the subtropics it is flourishing over winter and dies back in the summer - just too hot!  In cool climates however, it’s a summer plant of course (in northern hemisphere plant at the start of summer)

So here in the subtropics, it is beginning to grow now in autumn, and throughout autumn and winter I am eating the leaves in salads. In spring I am eating bulbs and leaves, and in late summer I am eating the seeds.  In cool climates, sow in summer and you can overwinter it if you cover it over. It’s not a tropical plant.

3. Fennel is completely edible

Did you know all of the fennel plant is edible?

Fennel bulbs (Image: Pixabay)

4. Fennel is delicious

Fennel leaves and seeds have a mild liquorice flavour, big white bulbs I enjoyed in salad last spring have a mild crunchy flavour. I always leave a few to go to seed. I’ve been watching them for some time now - flowering, forming seeds, and finally drying off. Unlike the seeds of plants like brassicas and lettuces, these seeds hang on quite some time once they are dry. 

5. Fennel is a good concentration of minerals

Fennel seeds are a concentrated source of minerals like Copper, Potassium, Calcium, Zinc, Manganese , Iron, Selenium and Magnesium. They also have a lot of Vitamin C.

6. Fennel is versatile in the kitchen

Use leaves, bulb, flowers and seeds raw in salads, or you can cooked in an array of delicious savoury or sweet meals. You can also dry fennel or preserve it in olive oil to extend the harvest.

Fennel seeds as decoration at home

7. Fennel makes a great tea

Fennel tea is good to suppress appetite and soothe coughs. It has even been said to help to clear mucus in the lungs. It can be made from the seeds or leaves.

For a strong fennel infusion tea:

3 tablespoons of crushed leaves for every cup of water
1 and a half tablespoons of seeds for every cup of water

8. Fennel attracts pollinators and beneficial insects

Flowering Fennel is a beautiful addition to the garden. it adds lots of colour with it’s bunches of large yellow flowers, it also adds height and structure to a vegetable garden and obviously a lot of bee landing pads with their large umbelliferae flowers.  It also attracts so many more beneficial insects - butterflies, lady beetles …

9. Fennel removes toxins

Regular sipping of fennel tea helps to flush out excess fluids - it works as a diuretic. Fennel seed helps remove toxins and reduces the risk of urinary tract problems. It also stimulates perspiration.

10. Fennel for a happy mouth

Fennel seeds are chewed as a breath freshener.  This can also relieve gum disease and toothache. In India, it’s common for households to have a few fennel seeds (widely known as Saunf) at the end of each meal.

11. Fennel for a healthy and happy digestive tract

Fennel tea stimulates healthy and happy digestion and the production of gastric enzymes. It is considered very useful for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, bloating and constipation because of the oils found in these seeds. Indians don’t just chew them for nice breath, they also use it to help digestion and prevent the formation of gas. In Indian restaurants, you’ll see them typically as the colourful sugar coated seeds, but avoid these and go for the real thing - fennel seeds are naturally sweet without the sugar.

12. Fennel for easy breathing

Fennel seeds can reduce asthma symptoms. Because the seeds have expectorant properties, a fennel seed tea helps also to ease bronchitis, congestion and coughs.

13. Fennel for women’s health

Fennel is considered be an important women’s herb. For over 2,000 years it’s been used to stimulate breast milk flow and reduce period pain.

14. Fennel reduces hunger

Chewing on fennel seeds acts as a natural appetite suppressant and can therefore help with weight management. It was often used in fasting periods to suppress hunger. Apparently it has been used to assist weight loss since pre-Roman times. The leaves, stems, and seeds all stimulate digestive fluids which fights hunger.

15. Fennel wards off fleas

Fennel is a great repellent for fleas. There’s an old adage “plant fennel by the kennel.” many people have told me that this really works. We don’t have dogs here at Crystal waters because we are in a wildlife reserve so I can’t give you my own personal experience on that one.

Would you like some of my fennel seeds?

If you’d like a packet of my fennel seeds that I collected by hand from my totally chemical-free permaculture garden in the subtropical ecovillage, please visit the new link on the side of this post - Morag's Store. 

A packet of my seeds costs $3.50 plus $1 for a stamp. These I can only send within Australia.

Morag's New Store

At the time of writing this, my fennel seeds are the only item in my store, but over time, I will be adding things that I make or grow, and sometimes other items that I highly recommend and use myself.  There will only be things that I truly think are useful for simple living and permaculture gardening.

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