Common fennel is an
attractive perennial growing up to 5ft (150cm)
high with blue-green feathery foliage and yellow
flowers. It has sometimes been called the grown-up
dill – taller, perennial and with a more
pronounced aniseed flavour. Do not confuse it
with Florence fennel – an unusual vegetable
grown for its swollen stem bases.
Choose a sunny, well-drained spot – common
fennel is more at home in the herbaceous border
than in the herb bed. You can sow seed in spring
but it is much easier to buy a pot-grown plant
from the garden centre or a specialist nursery.
Pick leaves in summer as required – provide
support if the site is exposed and remove some
of the tallest shoots so as to maintain a continuous
supply of new leaves. Harvest the seeds in the
way described for dill.
Fennel is interchangeable with dill – use
the chopped foliage for fish, salads, vegetables
and soups. The seeds are highly recommended for
cooking with oily fish such as mackerel.