|Wild fennel leaves growing on stalks along a San Francisco hillside.|
Unlike the commercially grown fennel that you see in supermarkets, wild fennel does not produce a bulging bulb. This herb grows in stalks that can become 6-10 feet tall and is sought after for its spring shoots, feather-like leaves, seeds and flower pollen.
Wild fennel favors the Mediterranean climate of San Francisco, flourishing in a variety of Bay Area places including vacant lots, weedy hillsides, grasslands and pastures as well as within coastal scrub. Open habitats nearby fresh or brackish water sources such as the banks of creeks, estuaries and/or bays might also harbor wild fennel.
The peak of wild fennel plant growth is during the months of July and August but seeds can germinate year round and it is possible for seeds to remain dormant in the soil for years before germinating.
|Seeds remain on a wild fennel stalk.|
Yellow flowers begin to appear on wild fennel plants when they are about one and a half to two years in age with blooms appearing around the month of May through September.
|Pollinators will gravitate to yellow flowers on fennel stocks.|
The last time I cooked with fennel was during this past Thanksgiving when I made Martha Stewart's Cherry-Pecan Stuffing. I distinctly remember crushing fennel seeds with my mortar & pestle as that a pleasingly fragrant licorice smell rose up from the result of freshly ground powder. The stuffing tasted so good that I am likely to make the recipe again next year!