University of Maryland Extension

Bulb fennel, Florence fennel

Photo and text by Bob Orazi

Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum

Bulb fennel has been a mainstay vegetable in the Mediterranean for centuries.  Eaten raw in salads, roasted until caramelized, steamed, or stir-fried, it adds a slight licorice flavor to dishes.  Don’t confuse bulb fennel with annual herb fennel whose seeds are used for flavoring, especially in Italian sausage, or perennial fennel whose bronze, feathery ornamental leaves attract beneficial insects.  Bulb fennel prefers cool, moist soil high in organic matter.  For a summer crop, start it indoors and transplant outdoors by mid-spring in rows 18” apart with 6” between plants. Plants bolt (send up a flower stalk and go to seed) in excessive summer temperatures. A second crop can be direct-seeded into the ground in late June or early July for a fall harvest. Varieties include Trieste, Orion, and Zefa Fino, the last being bolt-resistant and maturing around 80 days.

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