The leaves have an overall triangular shape and are many times divided into thin, featherlike leaflets and are dark green or bronze. Leaf stems (petioles) are swollen and fleshy and have a widened base.
Common fennel is a large, aromatic, perennial herb. It can grow up to 6.7 feet tall (2 meters) and has a very large taproot. Foliage, stems, roots and seeds are hairless and all have a very strong licorice scent.
Seeds are about 0.15 inches (3.5 to 4 mm) long and have small ridges.
Common fennel escapes cultivation and quickly establishes dense infestations that crowd out native plants that are critical to wildlife habitats. Infestations are becoming more common in Western Washington and may pose a threat to native grasslands.
Common fennel reproduces from seed. It can also reproduce from pieces of the root crown.
is the one I encounter. It can be used to replace its domesticated cousin in thousands of recipes, and food consumers will rarely catch on.
Young leaves are edible and useful in salads and cooking. Once leaves become mature, they get tough. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them. They make a great simmering potpourri. They also can be used medicinally.
Actually, it’s not truly wild. It’s escaped and naturalized, and it has been for a long time. Wild fennel is like fennel found in nurseries and stores, and you can find it anywhere.
Fennel tea is often prescribed to detoxify the body. It is high in antioxidants. It is also high in anti-inflammatory substances. It even has been recommended to reduce blood pressure.
As popular as fennel is as a culinary herb, it might be even more popular as a medicinal one. Fennel seeds are a popular digestive aid. They are used to relieve heartburn, gas, bloating and loss of appetite. The seed oil is also used as a flavoring in some laxatives.
On the negative side, fennel can slow blood clotting, so people with bleeding issues might want to avoid it. Chemicals in fennel also interfere with estrogen found in birth control pills rendering them less effective. Fennel also interferes with the effectiveness of the antibiotic Cipro.
I ran into a bunch of it the other day. From a distance, I thought it was dill, but when I ventured closer, I could see it was fennel. Fennel has delicate foliage that develops a strong licorice-like aroma and flavor.
However, the spirit was never banned in the UK (we never seem to have developed a taste for ouzo, or raki, or Pernod, although we are partial to licorice allsorts). Hence, quite recently there’s been a new interest in the spirit here, with initial imports coming from Czechia (where it was also not banned in the past). I suspect that drinkers of the spirit will not seem out of place on the streets of many parts of the country on a Saturday night, though the top hat might need to go…
Foorth of your lower parts to drive the winde.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Lots of fennel in the N2 Community Garden next to East Finchley Station
Edouard Manet’s The Absinthe Drinker (1859)
Above the lower plants it towers, The Fennel with its yellow flowers; And in an earlier age than ours Was gifted with the wondrous powers Lost vision to restore. Pliny believed that when snakes shed their skins, they rubbed themselves against a fennel plant in order to restore their eyesight – the eyes of such creatures go milky just before they lose their skins, so it’s not a big jump to assume that they are blind. It was also said to be a cure for obesity: ‘Both the seeds, leaves and root of our Garden Fennel are much used in drinks and broths for those that are grown fat, to abate their unwieldiness and cause them to grow more gaunt and lank. (William Coles, ‘Nature’s Paradise’ (1650) (Thanks to A Modern Herbal))
Dear Readers, this member of the carrot family is easily distinguished by its yellow flowers and its very delicate, frond-like leaves that taste strongly of aniseed. If you were to dig it up, you would discover that it also has a fleshy bulb that has a similar flavour. The plant in the photo above was planted in the N2 Community Garden next to East Finchley Station, but I noticed that an intrepid seed had germinated in the gutter nearby, and at this rate it will be popping up all over the place.