Fantastic Florence Fennel
In most places early to midsummer is an ideal time to start Florence Fennel. It is grown mainly for the ‘bulb’ at the base of the stem however the leaves and seeds can also be eaten. It isn’t unusual to see it grown just for the decorative qualities of its open airy foliage.
Transplant young plants carefully, they dislikes too much root disturbance, and then grow on keeping them moist. They do like the sunshine but should the season turn wet they will still perform well. As the ‘bulb’ begins to swell you can draw soil up around it – some say blanching makes them sweeter – harvest when the ‘bulbs’ are about the size of a tennis ball. If you cut them just below the bulb they will resprout more foliage for use in salads, as a garnish or flavouring or just for the decoration feathery leaves.
Beneficial insects will appreciate a plant or two flowering. For salad use: slice the inner leaf stalks and chill. Snip some foliage as a garnish over a salad or soup. Steam, grill or boil the bulbs and serve with butter or cheese sauce. Fennel can be parboiled with leeks before adding to a fish pie.