Foeniculum vulgare purpurascens
Fennel has lovely fluffy plumes of soft purple-bronze leaves and produces large flat umbels of yellow star-like flowers, followed by edible seeds. It is a very attractive plant that looks fantastic in the garden borders as well as the veg plot and is great for beneficial insects too. Fennel seeds and leaves can be used for culinary purposes. They have a sweet but delicate aniseed/licorice flavor that counteracts the oiliness of fish beautifully and adds extra flavor to salads as well. The seeds are lovely in bread & stews. Fennel should not be grown near dill as they can cross-pollinate and give inferior plants or coriander as it alters fennel’s flavor. It grows to between 60-120cm and has a spread of 45cm. It is a perennial plant that should be cut down in spring to encourage new shoots to emerge. It is better to replace fennel plants every 3-4 years as they begin to lose their ‘oomph’ with age.
Sow seeds in a seed tray or modules in fine compost, and cover with 12mm of fine compost. Germination takes 7-10 days. Transplant seedlings into small pots and when large enough plant them in the final position in the garden or container. Plant herbs every 30cm in rows 45cm apart. Alternatively, direct sow seed thinly in a drill 12mm deep, in rows 45cm apart. Germination takes 14-20 days. Thin out seedlings to every 30cm.