Hello my dear readers,
And here I am again with another ingredient from our kitchens. Today let’s discover the fennel.
In today’s post we will discover:
- Fennel’s History
- Fennel’s Characteristics
- Fennel’s Cultivation
Fennel is an excellent vegetable that can be eaten both cooked and raw, it is also used in decorative gardens for its beauty, with its characteristic luxuriant and bright green tuft.
Fennel is diet’s friendly vegetable: free of starches and lipids, it is absolutely the vegetable with the lowest caloric intake for our body. For this reason, it is seen as a valuable aid in low-calorie diets aimed at weight loss. In fact, it can be useful as a filler in the moments of hunger, especially that of nervous origin, but it is also perfect for the daily meals.
The fame of fennel in history is mainly due to the use that hosts made of it to alter the taste of wine on the palate and make it look better. At the time it was used the wild fennel, the progenitor of sweet fennel that we can find today in the market.
They were greedy Greeks and Romans, who considered it a symbol of vigour, both in the war field and in the sexual field.
But even in the Middle Ages it was highly appreciated, so much so that it was considered a sacred herb used in herbal medicine for the treatment of ailments.
The scientific name of fennel is foeniculum vulgare dulce and this vegetable belongs to the family of Apiaceae or Umbelliferae plants, therefore related to celery and carrot.
Foeniculum vulgare has origins in southern Europe and its cultivation begins around 1500.
The name is due to the fact that the leaves are reminiscent of hay, which in Latin is called foenum.
Its fruits, which are mistakenly called seeds, are also used, but also the bulb, the flowers and the leaves.
The use of fennel is very ancient and there are evidences of its use also in Egyptian scrolls.
Two types are distinguished: the first is the wild one, which is born and develops spontaneously in nature and which is sought after for all the products it can provide us. Its buds, leaves, flowers and fruits are used, what we commonly – and erroneously – call seeds.
Then there is the cultivated fennel, of which we consume the enlarged basal part called lump, but of which the leaves and fruits are also used, as in the wild one.
Normally in cultivated fennel we tend to distinguish male from female fennel. The former are more rounded and stocky and are recommended for raw consumption, while the latter are more tapered and slender, for which cooking is preferred.
With the introduction in the last decade of new hybrids, fennel is cultivated continuously all year round.
Sweet fennel is an annual or biennial vegetable with a taproot. What is eaten is actually a white and fleshy leaf sheath, which develops attached to the ground and is called lump. With the leaves it can reach up to 80 cm in height.
Ideal climate for cultivation
What is essential to know about the climate is that fennel fears temperatures below 7 degrees and above 30 degrees Celsius. This plant is sensitive to daylight hours, needs 12 hours of light, for this motif must be sown in March or between June and July and can also be counted among the winter vegetables. Fennel fears frost and for this reason it must be harvested before winter frosts.
Soil suitable for fennel
The fennel lump develops at ground level and for this to successfully grow it is very important to take care of the soil and its processing. This horticultural plant does not bear stagnation, which is why you must have a well-worked and draining soil, which allows a good prevention of cryptogamic diseases.
As for fertilization, it prefers fertile soil, better if fertilized first (manure or compost is fine), without excess. During the cultivation, a little nitrogen can be added to encourage the growth of the bud.
You can sow both in March, to harvest in June, and between June-July, for autumn harvest. Those who want to follow the moon phase will have to do it in the waning moon.
The distance between one plant and another must be of 30 cm, long rows placed at 50/70 cm. The seed must be buried approximately 1.5 cm deep. If you sow directly in the garden, it is better to sow close enough and then thin out by thinning the seedlings until you leave them at the right distance.
The distance between the plants determines the shape of the vegetable: if it is dense it develops elongated and flattened, if it has space we will have more round fennel. The shape and size depend on various other factors such as the variety, the type of soil, the treads.
Fennel needs a soil that is always moist, but without stagnation. For this reason, it is necessary to wet often, especially in gardens in very hot areas. A shortage of water puts the plant in stress which can go into the pre-flowering, ruining the harvest.
Protection from the cold
Since fennel fears the frost, it must be harvested before temperatures drop below zero, or to have this vegetable in winter by extending the harvest period, it can be protected using tunnels or non-woven fabric. If the temperature drops gradually, the fennel adapts a little by losing water, while a sudden change in temperature quickly ruins it.
Fennel is harvested about 80-120 days after sowing, the length of the crop cycle depends on the variety. The bud is always edible, obviously choosing the right time for the harvest maximizes the size and quality.
And now that we have seen what fennel is, join me next time and see how it tastes, how to use it in our kitchens, what are its benefits and side effects if any.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Thank you all for reading.
Have a wonderful day!
All photo credit: Pixabay edited by Popsicle Society