Fennel Foeniculum vulgare dulce Mill. - Tuber and horticultural plants - Herbaceous crops

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare dulce Mill. - Tuber and horticultural plants - Herbaceous crops

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Family: Ombrelliferae
Species: Foeniculum vulgare dulce Mill.

French: Fenouil; English: Fennel; Spanish: Hinojo; German: Fenchel.

Origin and diffusion

Fennel is an umbrella cultivated mainly in central-southern Italy, where cultivation is organized to have produced all year round.

Fennel Grumoli - Foeniculum vulgare dulce Mill. (website photo)

Botanical characters

It has a taproot root, stem with very close basal nodes, leaves with very wide sheaths, fleshy superimposed so as to form the characteristic bud; the leaves are pinnate-composed. If the plant spends at least one month at temperatures below 7 ° C, it passes from the vegetative phase to the reproductive phase, forming the branched floral scape which bears yellow flowers gathered in compound umbel inflorescences; pollination is usually crossed, by insects. The fruit is oblong or ellipsoid and has a characteristic aroma which makes it suitable to be used, as well as for the propagation of the plant, also as a spice.

Environmental needs

Since the temperatures are not too low during the vegetative cycle, the best conditions for the cultivation of fennel are along the coasts, both on the hills and on the flat.
Even in terms of soil, fennel is demanding: the soil must be medium-textured, tending to loose, fresh, rich in organic substance and deep. In very compact soils, the bud tends to develop above ground going towards serious depreciation because in these conditions it turns green and develops shoots between the sheaths.


The cultivated fennel can be ascribed to the varieties Fennel nostrale and Finocchio grosso dItalia. Our fennel is widespread in central-northern Italy, and is known by various names: Dolce di Firenze, Chioggia, Lecce, Bologna, Romano. The large fennel of Italy is extensively grown in southern Italy under the names of fennel from Sicily, Palermo, Messina, Naples, Reggio Calabria.

Cultivation technique

In open field cultivation, fennel is inserted between two rotating crops: generally it follows the wheat and precedes a crop from renewal to spring sowing.
The planting is done by direct sowing in large crops, by transplanting in small crops and for early productions. Sowing in the open field is done in rows 40-50 cm apart; with the subsequent thinning on the row, a plant is left every 20-25 cm. This type of sowing is generally carried out in June-July to obtain an autumn production; the sowing time must not be too early because otherwise the plant mounts. Direct sowing in the field requires 10-12 kg of seed per hectare.
In cases where the planting is carried out by transplanting, the sowing is done in a seedbed and the seedlings are planted 45 days after sowing. To have the product in winter, in areas where this is possible, sowing in a seedbed is carried out in August and transplanting in October. To have the production in summer, the seeding in the seedbed is done in January-February and the transplanting is carried out in March-April.
Sowing or transplanting must be carried out on well prepared soil. Pre-sowing or pre-planting is done using manure and phosphatic and potassic fertilizers. Nitrogen fertilizers are administered abundantly in cover.
During the cycle, weeding, watering and careful tamping are carried out, to encourage the formation of white and tight clots. In large crops they also carry out herbicide treatments.

Collection and production

The harvest takes place when the bud has reached full development, but before the elongation of the bud begins. The harvest can be: manual (by cutting the roots and partially the leaves directly in the field), facilitated (the cutting of the roots is done by a plow, then manually proceeding with the brief cleaning of the lumps), mechanical (with machines that perform all the operations until the lumps are unloaded in the trailer). The production fluctuates around 400 quintals per hectare.
The collected product is subjected to a manufacturing process which generally consists of
following steps:
- finishing, external cleaning of lumps;
- cutting of the leaves (at a commercially predetermined height);
- washing in water;
- selection;
- manual packing (in cases of 6 or 10 kg);
- rapid immersion in a citric acid solution, to prevent the browning process of the basal cut and the external sheaths.

Adversity and pests

- Downy mildew (Phytophtora syringae) (Plasmopara nivea);
- Cercosporiosis (Cercospora foeniculi);
- Sclerotinia (Sclerotinia spp.);
- Powdery mildew (Erysiphe umbelliferarum).
bacterial: (Erwinia carotovora subsp. Carotovora).
- Aphids (Dysaphis spp.);
- Nottue (Agrotis spp.) (Mamestra brassicae).

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