We tend to grow Florence fennel for its yummy bulbous stem. Pale green and delicately flavored like licorice, this stem is a culinary gem.
But did you know that if left to flower and set seed, this same fennel yields a lot of aromatic seeds that can be “put by” for winter use in baking, stews and soups, sausages, and even savory syrups? In the process of setting seed, the glorious flower heads draw in all kinds of small bees, wasps, and other pollinators to their bright yellow florets.
You can stand right next to a fennel plant in full flower and not be bothered in the least by these creatures, which will be whizzing back and forth, up and down. They are crazed to get at the flowers, and nothing else. Bronze fennel, by the way, is also outstanding in the landscape and as a seed source.
Saving Fennel Seeds
Some weeks later the seed heads will form. The only trick to harvesting fennel seed is not to let the seed heads get too dry and burst. If that happens the seed will be all over the garden and, yes, you may be pulling out a lot of extra plants next year so it doesn’t take over.
Rather, when the seed heads have lost their petals and are starting to turn from green to brown, cut the stems and put them upside down inside a big paper bag. Just let them dry completely in a shady, sheltered place, and then run the seeds through a sieve to clean. Store in small jars.
I substitute this homegrown fennel seed for caraway in many recipes.
Written by Sow True Garden Ambassador, Nan Chase
Our Garden Ambassador Program is a network of talented gardeners, writers and photographers. The Garden Ambassadors are here to help you learn and grow from real garden experiences. You can read more blog posts from Nan Chase HERE.