This delicately flavored vegetable is also known as finocchio or Florence fennel. Plants form pale green flattened oval to round bulbs at soil level with feathery dark green tops. Premium Trieste is a new bolt-resistant hybrid from France bred for top flavor and tenderness. Its refined, juicy-crisp flesh is marvelous sliced in salads and its wonderful nutty anise flavor softens and mellows when cooked. Grill Trieste over glowing coals or sauté to succulent melting sweetness.
In early spring when danger of hard frost is over, sow seeds in well-worked, fertile soil in full sun. Space seeds 4 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart and cover seed 1/2 inch deep. Carefully thin when seedlings are large enough to handle to stand 10 to 12 inches apart so bulbs have room to grow and mature. Or start seeds indoors in a container of seed starting mix. Keep moist and provide a strong light source until seedlings are 3 or 4 inches tall and ready to transplant as above.
For tender, best quality bulbs, fennel needs rich soil and cool growing weather, so sow seeds as early as the ground can be worked and again in midsummer for fall harvesting. Be sure seedlings are thinned or transplanted 10 to12 inches apart. Keep plants evenly moist throughout the growing season – mulching is a good strategy. Fennel is a heavy feeder, so fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks with a high nitrogen fertilizer such as fish emulsion.
HARVEST AND USE
When bulbs are full and plump, cut them off at soil level. Trim the feathery leaves down to the solid base. Slice the crispy bulbs and add to salads, or eat with dips, or grill or sauté. The leafy tops are a great seasoning for seafood, especially salmon. Fennel’s flavor is like sweet anise/celery that becomes deeper and richer with cooking.
Soil temperature: 75 - 85 degrees fahrenheit
Seeding depth: 0.12 - 0.25 inches
Germination days: 7 - 10 days
Grow on temperature day: 65 - 75 degrees fahrenheit
Grow on temperature night: 60 - 70 degrees fahrenheit
Weeks indoor: 4 - 6 weeks
Maturation days: 82 days