Discovering our food: fennel

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.


The plant

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.

Sowing period

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.

Stay tuned!

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!

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I love traveling, cooking and enjoying this beatiful world.Β 
I’m a life lover! Simple as that!

All photo credit: Pixabay edited by Popsicle Society

66 thoughts

    1. Thank you very much! I’m glad you like it! Oh yes, it gives such a wonderful taste! Sausage and fennel I think is a wonderful combination πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‹

  1. The buterflies love fennel! I plant it just for them not for eating. I’ve had the most beautiful catepillars you’ve seen chomping away since I started planting. Have a great day.

    1. Oh wow! That’s wonderful πŸ¦‹ maybe they’re attracted by its smell πŸ˜€ Great to know! Next time I’ll have my garden I’ll try too 😁

  2. What a lovely article! Fennel is one of my absolutely favorite vegetables, and it is often overlooked by many! Right now, I have a vat of fennel vichyssoise in my refrigerator calling my name for breakfast! (It’s been really hot here…)

    1. Thank you very much Dorothy! Yes, I believe is often overlooked and not exactly sure why, because it has a really wonderful taste, perfect for summer raw and cooked for winter πŸ˜‰
      I love it but here in Singapore can find only imported and is so small and expensive πŸ˜“ Still sometimes I buy it as I can’t resist ☺️

      1. I would too! I guess I am lucky that I can find it most of the year, not so much in winter. But we can get it fresh from our farms in summer, and I grew it myself last year –– even better. Happy fennel hunting!

      2. Back home in Italy, it was never missing from my fridge πŸ€ͺ It’s really wonderful all year round πŸ˜‰
        Now I really need to go hunting for it πŸ€ͺ
        Thank you Dorothy!

  3. isn’t it onion🧐 I thought it was, what is a fennel anyway, I just took a help of Google, sadly in India we find this only in a small bottle, and I never knew to which product of my cooking really deserved this powder, hence there was two bottles, and these two bottles left unused πŸ˜‚. Well that’s my story of Fennel πŸ˜…. This is how it grows, how bad I was 😳 I have been watching this bottle since my childhood and no one ever told me how it grows 😁 . Thanks for this article, a good piece of knowledge for me. It’s very New and amazing to know about its history and culture. Have a wonderful Wednesday βœ¨πŸ€—πŸ˜‡

    1. Thank you very much Simon for your time! I’m glad I can make you discover new foods πŸ˜‰ Our world is so vast and it has so many wonderful things, including food πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‹ I’m sure if you could try it raw in a salad, since you like to eat healthy, you’ll love it πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‹ Now only finding the way to send you some πŸ€ͺ But the problem is that also in Singapore I barely find it πŸ€ͺ We need to go back to my home, there’s plenty of it πŸ˜‰
      Well, never say never πŸ˜‰
      Have a wonderful week ahead Simon! πŸ˜€πŸ˜‰πŸ€—

      1. If I could get these in market I would definitely try this salad 😍. My ancestors Never showed me this before, I discovered after all these years this is not a seed πŸ˜‚. I can barely find it here too. 😊 Enjoy the Wednesday RibanaπŸ€—

      2. Well, it is a seed too πŸ˜‰ It can be used in different ways and most probably you have it as seeds, is easier to import πŸ˜‰
        The fresh one has the same taste of the seeds πŸ˜‰ Is really very interesting πŸ˜‰
        Hope you day was great! Wish you a lovely evening! πŸ˜‰πŸ€—

      1. Haha I keep staring at it today in the supermarket haha πŸ˜‚
        I got a terribly slow internet now but I’ll do research in this as long as everything went back to normal πŸ™‚

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