Harvesting Fennel - Knowledgebase Question

Anaheim, CA
Question by toadssal
July 9, 1999
I love to cook with fresh herbs, so I have quite a few of them. What is the best method for harvesting fennel? I like to use the leaves, bulbs, and seeds.


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Answer from NGA
July 9, 1999

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Each part of the fennel plant is edible. 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 (though you'll be forfeiting the seeds) 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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