How to grow Florence Fennel by John Oldham
Warning! If you can’t stand the taste of aniseed, read no further!
Florence Fennel is a dwarf form of the herb Fennel (Latin name – Foeniculum vulgare), which is grown for its aromatic bouquet and is often used as a garnish for fish dishes.
Florence Fennel is a bulbous vegetable formed from its swollen basal stems. It can be sliced into salads, to which it imparts a delicious aniseed flavour. It is perhaps best in it’s own right, sliced and braised in butter, lemon juice, and enough water to cover. It makes a superb accompaniment to white fish, or meat, especially pork.
Although modern varieties claim to be “bolt-resistant”, they nevertheless have a tendency to “run to seed” if sown too early in the year. My own experience suggests it is best not to sow before the end of May. There are a number of good varieties, among them “Zefa Fina”, and “Goal”.
* Sow under cold glass in polystyrene modules or small pots.
* Keep under glass after germination (which takes about 10 days).
* Thin out to 1 plant per module or pot.
* When the plants are about 2” (5cms.) tall, harden off in a bright sheltered but not too sunny spot outdoors before planting out about 10-12” (21-26cms.) apart, same distance between rows.
* The young plants must not be allowed to dry out at any time.
* During the growing and maturing period they use lots of water, and I find they benefit from small feeds of a nitrogenous fertiliser.
* Harvest when the rounded “bulbs” are up to the size of a tennis ball.
Author – John Oldham
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