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The French and Italians consider it a delicacy.

If you like the taste of licorice, try growing finocchio-also known as bulbing fennel or Florence fennel-this fall. Although Italian and French cooks prize it for its distinctive flavor, many Americans are unfamiliar with it. Unlike common herb fennel Foeniculum vulgare), grown for its seeds and foliage, finocchio (Fv. azoricum) is mainly grown for its white "bulb" (technically a leaf base), reminiscent of a flattened bunch of celery. It's easy to grow, and the feathery blue-green foliage looks attractive in the garden. In some areas, it also invites butterflies. In cooking, a head of fennel can be used any way you use celery. Diced raw in salads, it has the crunchy texture of celery with a sweet, rich anise taste. Sauteed or poached, it has a more delicate flavor and makes a good accompaniment to fish or fowl. The feathery foliage can also be used to enhance the flavor of the head during cooking. Grow in rich, moist soil In coastal climates, sow seeds in flats or in the ground soon so plants can take advantage of this month's temperatures to get established; allow three to four weeks for transplants to develop. In hot inland areas, sow in flats and transplant into the garden when temperatures turn cooler. Plant seeds an inch apart and 1/2 inch deep in rich, moist soil. Gently thin or transplant to 8 to 10 inches apart (don't crowd plants or they won't form good-size bulbs). To avoid breaking the growth cycle, transplant when seedlings are only a couple of inches tall. Beyond that, disturbing roots may cause plants to bolt. During growth, keep the soil moist and fertilize every two to three weeks with a slightly diluted higb-nitrogen fertilizer. For extra-white blanched) heads, pile soil around the bulbs as they develop. Harvest when bulbs are 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter (if allowed to grow much larger than this, bulbs and stems may become tough). You can also plant bolt-resistant varieties in early spring. Where to buy seeds You may find seeds at nurseries that carry specialty vegetables. Otherwise, order them through the mail (some catalogs list finocchio under fennel in the herb section, but make sure it's the bulbing kind). Le Marche Seeds International, Box 190, Dixon, Calif. 95620; (916) 678-9244. Free seed list. Redwood City Seed Co., Box 361, Redwood City, Calif. 94064; (415) 325-7333. Seeds $1 (also send stamped, self-addressed envelope). Shepherd's Garden Seeds, 6116 Highway 9, Felton, Calif. 95018; (408) 335-531 1. Catalog $1.
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Title Annotation:Florence fennel
Date:Aug 1, 1989
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