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Florence FennelFlorence Fennel

Florence fennel, a wonderfully ornamental vegetable, is grown for its swollen leaf bases or ‘bulbs’ and edible leaves. When using in salads, the flavour can be improved by slicing the bulb and putting it in a bowl of water and ice cubes in the fridge for an hour. Steam, grill or boil the ‘bulbs’ and serve with cheese sauce or butter; infuse the leaves in vinegar or add as garnish to salad.

Florence Fennel

Strictly speaking the large white bulbs of Florence Fennel are not really bulbs at all, they are swollen, over lapping leaf steams. So as a vegetable Florence fennel is closer to celery than it is to the onion family.  It has a rather unique taste, similar to aniseed and can be eaten raw in salads or cooked and goes great with fish.

Benefits of Fennel

  • Bulb fennel is one of very low calorie vegetables. 100g bulb provides just 31 calories. Further, it contains generous amounts of fiber (3.1g/100 g or 8% of RDI), very little fat and zero cholesterol.
  • The bulbs have moderate amounts of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Their juicy fronds indeed contain several vital vitamins such as pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in small but healthy proportions. 100g fresh bulbs provide 27µg of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Their adequate levels in the diet during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
  • In addition, fennel bulb contains an average amount of water-soluble vitamin, vitamin-C. 100 g of fresh bulbs provide 12 mg or 20% of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Further, it has small amounts of vitamin A.
  • The bulbs have very good levels of heart-friendly electrolyte potassium. 100 g provides 414 mg or 9% of daily-recommended levels. It is an important electrolyte inside the cell. Potassium helps reduce blood pressure and rate of heartbeats by countering effects of sodium. Fennel also contains small amounts of minerals such as copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium.

 

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Sowing
  Growing on Fennel
  Harvesting Fennel
  Varieties
  Problems
Sowing Florence Fennel

Growing Florence FennelGrowing Florence Fennel

When to sow

  • Indoors in March or April at a minimum of 15˚C
  • Outdoors when tempertures rise above 15˚C and no chance of frost so from mid May till July

How to sow Florence Fennel

Fennel grows best during warm summers and needs an open, sunny site. Prepare a seedbed in fertile, well-drained soil, adding plenty of well-rotted organic matter the winter before planting. Fennel thrives on warm, moist, fertile, sandy soils.

Fennel dislikes root disturbance. Sow in cooler climates or, for early crops, better to sow in modules as single seedlings to avoid root damage. Plant out modules as soon as possible once the roots fill container from April, ‘harden off’, then plant out once the soil is warm and there is no danger of frost, from early May onwards. Early sowings are very liable to flower prematurely (bolt); there are bolt-resistant cultivars.

Alternatively, sow directly into the soil, 1.5mm (1/2in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, thinning to 30cm (12in) apart in the rows when the soil is warm from May to early July. Use bolt-resistant cultivars from mid-June to mid-July sowings. 

 
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Growing on Florence Fennel

Florence Fennel SeedlingsFlorence Fennel Seedlings

When to sow

  • Indoors in March or April at a minimum of 15˚C
  • Outdoors when tempertures rise above 15˚C and no chance of frost so from mid May till July

How to Grow On Florence Fennel

  • Provide plenty of moisture throughout the growing season, keep weed free and mulch to conserve moisture.
  • Earth up (mound soil) round the bulbs as they start to swell, from mid-summer until mid autumn, until the bulb is mature and about 7-10cm (3-4in across) to blanch bulb and to exclude autumn frosts.
  • Feed with high potassium fertiliser every two weeks once established.
  • The largest bulbs are formed in warm, sunny, moist summers.
 
Harvesting Florence Fennel

Harvesting Florence FennelHarvesting Florence Fennel

How to Harvest Florence Fennel

Tips for Harvesting  

  • Around 20 days after ‘earthing up’, cut the bulbs off at just above ground level.
  • They will then re-sprout and the small shoots can be used in salads or as you would dill in fish dishes, or though this is of course not dill.
 
Florence Fennel Varieties

Florence Fennel to trySweet Florence Fennel cut

Great Florence Fennel Varieties to try

  • Romanesco Fennel
    A quick growing variety with uniform, round white bulbs. Good for summer/autumn production.
  • Rondo F1 Fennel
    Another quick growing variety with uniform, round white bulbs. Good for summer/autumn production.

  • Sweet Florence Fennel
    The old traditional variety. Best used for later summer sowings when bolting is not normally a problem. Fine flavour. Leaves can be used as a herb.

 
Problems Growing Florence Fennel

The Slug: A Growers NightmareThe Slug: A Growers Nightmare

Bolting Florence FennelBolting Florence Fennel

Problems Growing Florence Fennel

Bolting:

  • Crops start to flower and produce seeds prematurely; leaves are unusable.
  • This is most often caused by dry soil or hot weather but with fennel, it can be caused by day length and transplanting shock.

Remedy:  

  • Ensure the soil or compost in pots is kept moist, especially during hot, dry spells.
  • Using a temporary shade screen or sheets of shading material will help during very sunny weather.
  • Keep the soil moist at all times.

Slugs:

  • Slugs eat leaves and young shoots.

Remedy:  

  • It’s impossible to completely eradicate slugs and snails, so protect vulnerable plants.
  • Non-chemical controls including hunting by torchlight on mild, damp nights, or making traps consisting of a jar half-filled with beer sunk into the ground near plants.
  • Iron phosphate-based pellets are effective and less likely to harm other wildlife than other pellets.
 
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