Spring, early summer, fall
This variety has a round and smooth bulb good for spring and fall. It is resistant to bolting and tipburn.
Though not scientifically proven, ancient Roman women may have used fennel as a diet food with the belief that it was an appetite suppressant. In the Middle Ages the seeds were used as a popular method to curb appetites during Lent.
Fennel is believed to have been introduced to California over 200 years ago by the Spanish.
While mature, fennel can withstand light frosts and thrives in a temperate or sub-tropical climate where it can enjoy a sunny, warm position in moisture-retentive soil.
Two forms of fennel are commonly grown: one for the seed and young leaves, and the other for its flavorful base.
In California avoid choosing wild fennel for a domestic garden as it can become invasive.
Harvest fennel when the bulb is slightly bigger than a tennis ball; about 2 or 3 inches in diameter.
The entire plant-bulb, stalks, leaves and seeds-are edible and have a slightly sweet anise flavor. One cup of raw sliced fennel supplies almost 20% of the Daily Value for vitamin C and over 10% of fiber needs all for only 25 calories.
How to Buy:
Choose bulbs that are firm and show no signs of drying out. Some bruising is acceptable as the outer layers can be removed during preparation.
How to Store:
While fit for drying, canning, or freezing, fennel is best used fresh. Refrigerated and wrapped in plastic fennel keeps for several days. If sliced it can be temporarily stored in acidulated water to prevent browning. This can be done by adding the juice of half a lemon to a bowl of water.
How to Prepare:
To prepare fennel remove the outermost blemished layers to reveal the milky interior. Cut the top stalks off completely as they are fibrous, and then halve, quarter, or finely chop according to the recipe.