Today’s topic of discussion is a popular aromatic herb-The Florence Fennel. We will discuss how to harvest Fennel Bulbs and especially the perfect timing for this task. So stay tuned and keep reading.
Florence Fennel is a Perennial Aromatic herb. It is very popular among kitchen gardeners and of course, it’s a must-have kitchen item. Florence Fennel is just like other fennel varieties but with a delicate aroma and crunchy bulb. It is native to Mediterranean Climate where it grows as a perennial herb. Everywhere else fennel is grown as an annual herb especially to gain the soft tender fleshy bulbs every year. Year-old bulbs become hard and fibrous so it’s not that useful for cooking.
Fennel likes a mild cold climate. You can grow fennel easily in USDA Agricultural zone 2 to 9. Grow fennel in winter or fall especially in hotter Zone 10 or 11. It requires soft slightly moist nutritious soil to grow. Maintain a steady 6.4 or above Soil Ph throughout plant life. Finally harvest the leaves and stalk once in a week or two. Harvest the bulbs after 100 days of seed germination. Do this before heavy blooming in fennel plants else the bulb will become fibrous and hard to chew.
The Botanical Name of Florence Fennel is: “Foeniculum vulgare azoricum”
Check out my previous post: How to Dig up Asiatic Lily Bulbs?
How to Know if Fennel is ready to be picked?
If you are a kitchen gardener and grow fennel then this might be your first question. I’ve always thought how do you know when is fennel ready to be picked? It is a tricky answer and depends on many factors like temperature, variety, and growth pattern of the plant. Probably the best time is 90 to 100 days after seed germination. The fennel plant should have developed a fair 3 to 4-inch bulb by this time.
It also depends on the size of the bulbs. The bulb should size up to 3 to 5 inches in diameter. The size may differ but consider a tennis ball size bulb good for picking. If it’s bigger than your fist then you surely have a good harvest.
Usually, fennel bulb harvesting should be done before it starts blooming vigorously. The blooms will force starch concentration in bulbs and it will turn fibrous. This is a biological phenomenon that helps the plant to support seed formation. It is necessary for the continuation of plant heredity. So if you want to collect a fennel bulb for cooking then harvest it before it turns hard and chewy.
Does Fennel Come back every year?
Yes, Most fennel varieties including Florence Fennel are Perennial herbaceous plants. It means it will stay alive for years. It may lose some foliage from season to season but it will come back every year. No, the important question is should you grow fennel as a perennial especially for cooking purposes.
It will become hard and chewy after the first growing season. This can take around 120 days but it will happen. Next, you won’t be able to harvest the bulb afterward as it will be of no use for cooking. You can instead collect leaves and stalk for years along with fennel seeds. So growing fennel as an annual plant is more profitable.
Sometimes you can even get new fennel plants after bulb harvesting. This usually happens due to the fallen fennel seeds of the previous season. Therefore, in one way or another you can say that Fennel comes back every year.
Is it Easy to Harvest a fennel Bulb?
Yes, harvesting fennel is very easy. No matter whether you choose the leaves, seeds, or the bulb, it’s always easy to pick them all and collect them. Though you may need some patience as too much harvesting of leaves can damage the plant. Also if you harvest many bulbs at once then some of them may get wasted without any use.
You can only store fennel leaves for a couple of days and the bulbs for at most 10 days with proper freezing. So I would suggest harvesting these fresh when you need them. There is no need to store them in advance, they won’t stay fresh for long.
You can only harvest and store fennel seeds for a year long. They will stay fresh and aromatic though you have to dry them in full sun before storage. Green or moist fennel seeds will rot and you can’t save them for future use.
Do you need any tools to Harvest the Fennel bulbs?
We kitchen gardeners usually use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors to harvest fennel bulbs. Does it mean these tools are necessary for fennel harvesting?- No, Not at all. You don’t need any tool other than your bare hands to harvest these soft and tender herbs.
Tools are only meant to ease your job. They can help in saving time and effort. But this does not mean that you can’t do the task without any of these tools. You can easily pinch off the fennel leaves. Twist and turn the fennel bulb from its base and it will come out. The fennel plant is delicate and won’t require much effort to break. Therefore there is no need to use any tool, you can harvest fennel just with your bare hands.
When to Harvest Fennel?
Harvest fennel leaves when the plant establishes properly with multiple stalks. Usually, you will see only one stalk in a new fennel plant. It will divide with subsequent harvesting of leaves and tips. Pinch off only a few leaves from each branch leaving others to support the plant growth. Vigorous harvesting of leaves can damage the entire plant. You can continue harvesting Fennel leaves throughout plant life. The plant will continue to form new leaves within a week of harvesting.
If you want to harvest the fennel bulb then wait for it to grow bigger than a tennis ball. Count for days after plantation or simply seed germination. It will be ready to harvest in 90 to 115 days of sowing. You can harvest fennel bulbs before 90 days but it won’t taste good if you do it after 125 days.
Heavy blooming in the fennel plants is an indication of harvest time. Keep in mind the bulb will become hard and chewy with subsequent blooming. It will become fibrous and won’t taste good as needed. So harvest fennel bulbs within 100 days of the plantation.
How to Harvest Fennel Bulbs?
You can use a sharp knife to harvest bulbs if you want to do it fast and clean. Else your hands are sufficient for this task.
- Start with marking the bulbs fit for harvest. Select big fresh and healthy fennel bulbs to harvest. Keep in mind you are gonna eat it, so it should be safe and healthy. Bulbs with 3 to 5-inch diameter are good for harvest.
- Once you have chosen your fennel plant, hold the fennel bulb near its base. Press it gently to make sure it is firm and crunchy. If it feels hard as a rock then it is not good to eat.
- Then slide the knife gently between the bulb and the root structure. It will cut off easily without much effort.
- Rinse the bulb with clean water to remove all the dirt and any bugs if left in the foliage. Don’t forget to inspect leaves for tiny leafcutter larvae.
- Use the bulbs in vegetable or stew as a fresh ingredient. Else wrap it in plastic bag and store in the fridge, in the vegetable compartment. Crisper fridge storages are best for storing fennel and other herbs for future use. Don’t put it in the freezer or it will lose its flavor and texture.
- Fennel bulbs taste great when consumed fresh so make a habit of harvesting fresh bulbs before cooking.