Fennel plants are annual or perennial and can reach 1.5m or more, with one to several erect, hollow stems coming from the base and bearing fine, glossy aromatic pinnate foliage. The tiny yellow flowers, borne in umbels, are used in pickling and the small seeds are very aromatic.
Fennel plants prefers a light, well drained slightly alkaline soil in a sunny position but is adaptable and tolerates the cold very well. Raise all varieties by seed sown in spring. Propagate perennial forms by division in spring. Cut down and remove old stems. Harvest foliage and flowers as required. Harvest seeds when ripe then dry and freeze for a few days to kill any insects. Lift roots in autumn and dry them.
Slice the raw bulb thinly and add to salads, or cut in half and roast as a vegetable to bring out its sweetness. See here for a pan fried fennel recipe and here, for a cake recipe. Use fresh fennel leaves in salads, salad dressings and vinegars, with fish, pork and seafood dishes, or as a garnish. The dried seeds are used in cakes and breads, Italian sausages, salads, pickles, curries and pasta and tomato dishes.