The Q&A Archives: Growing Fennel

Question: We planted fennel from seed this spring and used a type of seed which was to produce fennel bulbs for cooking. The plants developed well, but we we have harvested only the smallest of bulbs from a few of the plants. They produced beautiful foliage and flowers but nothing for harvesting as a vegetable. Should we have cut back the plant as it grew? We love this vegetable and are willing to try again with some advice.

Answer: Fennel is a perennial plant that grows with ease from seed. It's generally treated as an annual in that all parts of the plant are edible and are therefore harvested at all stages of development. Leaves are clipped throughout the season; seeds are harvested at the end of summer. If you allow fennel roots to remain in the soil, a fleshy bulb will develop after the second summer. It's at this point that the bulb can be harvested by digging below the soil surface. If you save seeds from the plant you can grow additional fennel plants. Hope this clears the confusion!

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