Welcome to a new feature on my blog – a weekly discussion of the history, lore and usage of common and uncommon herbs.
I’m not very fond of fennel’s taste, but I love its history, lore and “magical” properties. In ancient Greece, it was an herb of victory and courage, and was worn with other herbs in the hero’s crown. Dried fennel seed heads, along with rue, rosemary, and dill were woven into a wreath and hung over the fireplace for protection. A bunch of dried fennel tied with a red ribbon was hung over the door for protection against intruders.
Fennel has been used to sooth the intestines, ease flatulence, and to sweeten the breath.
A perennial, it is relatively easy to grow. It thrives in rich soil and plenty of sun. Don’t plant near beans, caraway, tomatoes or kohlrabi as it is said to have an adverse effect on these plants. You can harvest a little of the feathery stalks for kitchen use, or gather the seedheads and dry them when the plant is finished flowering.
Photo found on Pinterest
You may not know this but Fennel is a favorite for butterfly caterpillars. They will devour it! I had a huge Fennel plant a couple of years ago. It was about 4 feet tall. There were over a dozen of the butterfly caterpillars on them. I found it interesting that they never touched the dill that year, and it was planted right beside it. However, this year (and I have since moved to a house out in the country) the same little caterpillars were back to see me and had eaten all the leaves off my rue plant! It was almost completely gone so I ran to the nursery and bought every fennel plant they had ( I had not planted fennel this year). The next morning the rue leaves were gone but they just hopped over to the fennel and are happy as clams.
Thanks Cam! I did know that and forgot to mention it. My Parsley Swallowtails love it in the caterpillar stage! Peace, Deb