Last year, we purchased a fennel start from Garden Fever. At the time, it was an impulse buy. We had never grown fennel before, had no idea what type to buy, or that there was even a difference. We didn't really touch it throughout the year, and during the rainy fall months and through the (again) rainy winter, we thought we lost it. But, it's back. Bigger and better than ever.
It's a bronze fennel plant, and like I said, we didn't know this at the time but it's different than most of the fennel you find at the grocery store. But, not much different.
The leaves are a darker color and it doesn't bulb as much. It's a great ornamental and attracts butterflies and birds. I've also read that it reseeds a little too well and will spread if not controlled.
The taste and use is very similar. The whole plant is edible: bulb, stems, leaves, and seeds. You cook the stems of the bronze fennel, just as you would the bulb. It's delicious.
We've been doing a lot with the plant over the past few days, and there is still plenty more left in the garden.
Willis made the most delicious sandwich with the stems. I've also been throwing them in with the onions and garlic in almost everything I've been cooking. And we've dried a lot of the leaves to be used as an herb or a tea.
If you live in the area and would like some dried fennel leaves, let us know!
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