The Q&A Archives: Harvesting Fennel

Question: I planted fennel (not from seed) awhile ago and have very tall, thin stalks with the wispy green "flowers". How will I know when the bulb will be ready to be harvested?

Answer: Each part of the fennel plant is edible. Rather than digging the bulb, use the other plant parts and you'll hve a constant supply of fennel. You can begin snipping the leaves once the plant is well established. Clippings can be frozen for later use; the leaves hold up well when chopped and stored loosely in containers. It takes about 80 days for the stems to fully mature, but they are edible as soon as they begin to fatten. Just cut them off at the crown. For the plumpest stems, pinch off the emerging seed head and give them several days to store energy before cutting them back. Some people say that the stems are at their best when the plant is just about to bloom. Harvesting the seeds requires perfect timing. Watch the plant closely to notice when the seeds turn from yellowish green to brown. They will fall, even in a gentle breeze, when they reach the brown stage. Snip the seedheads with scissors and let them drop into a paper bag. Once the seeds are thoroughly dried, they can be transferred to jars.

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