Fennel likes full sun and a well drained soil. It is drought tolerant. Plant seeds directly into soil in late spring to early summer. Once fennel is established, it will self seed. Do not grow fennel near dill, they will cross pollinate and it will reduce the seed production of the fennel. Removing seed heads will give better leaf production. Fennel does not do well grown indoors. Pick fennel leaves as needed, the seeds can be harvested when ripe and the bulb should be dug up in autumn.
Fennel was highly valued by the Romans. Gladiators ate fennel daily and wore a wreath made from fennel when winning battles. Roman worriers ate fennel to stay in good health. Women ate fennel as an appetite suppressant. Anglo-Saxsons held fennel sacred because of it's power against evil. Fennel was an essential herb for herb gardens as early as 820 AD because of it's healing properties.
Cooking with Fennel
Fennel seeds are used in breads, puddings, and sauces. The leaves are used in salads, soups and stuffings. Fennel bulbs can be eaten raw grated into salads, sandwiches and stuffings. Fennel leaves also accent chicken, fish and pork dishes. Here is a very flavorful pork recipe using fennel seed.
- To moisturize dry skin: In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of boiling water to 1 teaspoon fennel seed. Let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the fennel seeds and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Mix 1 tablespoon ground oatmeal, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 tablespoon fennel tea in a bowl. Apply the mixture to your face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse well with warm water.
- Deep cleansing: In a large bowl, mix a handful of fennel leaves in a pint of hot water. Put facce over steaming vapor and use as a facial steam.
- Freshen breath: Chew fennel to freshen breath.
- Drink as a tea to aid in digestion and constipation.
- Chew fennel leaves to help relieve hunger.
- Fennel can be used to help relieve the effects of alcohol.