When harvesting fennel, we’ve learned to leave the taproots in place, which sprout again for a second and sometimes third harvest. These baby bulbs went immediately into a pot of chicken braised in milk, along with their fronds and a handful of lemon thyme, and a dash of warming nutmeg.
By late fall, the fennel is at its fullest expression. We let it flower to provide food for pollinators at a time when blooms are scarce.
This year, we remembered to save some of the pollen for ourselves. We gathered up enough flower heads to fill a couple of bags, and left them to dry. Instead of a paper bag, we used a glassine one, the better to see if anything was really happening. The yield is somewhat like saffron, not a tremendous amount, though enough to flavor pasta with.
After the pollen drops, the flowers transform themselves into seed heads. We like to nibble on them while they’re still green, and collect the seeds once they’ve dried.
Fennel, chicory (catalogna endive), tatsoi, kale, chard, salad greens, and apples.
Preserving: Fermenting Curtido (Salvadorean Sauerkraut).
Now, THAT’S using the whole pig, so to speak! Certainly a very versatile plant, and beautiful pictures.
We’re partial to plants that have more than one edible part…
I thought you had to leave the seed heads on the fennel plant until they are dried.
We did too! We needed to clean out the beds before the seed heads had dried…
If I’m ever shipwrecked on an island, I want you to be one of my choices to go with me because I know I won’t starve and will probably eat quite healthy. :-)
And between the two of us, I’m sure we’d be able to come up with something warm to wrap ourselves with!
Your photographs are beautiful.
whoa, look at those little yellow fennel flowers. so pretty! “fullest expression” indeed!
The umbel family is one of my favorites, just for the umbrella-like flowers!
I’ve never managed to get a decent second growth bulb, actually, this year I never managed to get a first growth bulb either, all my plants bolted early. :-/
I do like to let volunteers pop up in out of the way places though and collect the pollen and seeds. Have you tried harvesting the seeds when they are full sized but still green and then drying them? The dried green seeds are much more flavorful than the seeds that dry on the plants.
The second growth is definitely considerably smaller. Are you familiar with alpine varieties of fennel? They’re supposed to be less prone to bolting.
Thanks for the tip about dried green seeds, we found this out by accident this year!
I planted out a few fennel seedlings yesterday. Now I’m getting excited about their potential. If they do bolt early I will be sure to harvest their pollen. They are a bit of a weed here so I shouldn’t really let them go to seed – harvesting at pollen stage should avoid that problem.
They are prone to bolting and seem to prefer direct seeding, though we’re just as happy to use them as an herb!
Wow! Fennel is the plant that keeps on giving. Thanks for the education.
One of the benefits of growing things yourself is learning their full life cycle!
I’ve never had luck with fennel…healthy looking plants but no bulbs.
Notoriously difficult to grow and prone to bolting!
I don’t feel so bad now…thanks.
Such great information, what a versatile little plant.
If they weren’t so versatile, we probably would’ve given up growing them ourselves!