'Carosella Perpetua' Fennel
Foeniculum vulgare subsp. piperitum
Origin: Italy, via Spain
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~70
Germination tested 11/2023: 68% (Below standard)
Life cycle: Perennial
EFN INTRODUCTION. "Carosella" is an Italian word (a feminized version of the word for "carousel") used mainly to describe a wilder form of fennel than the "Florence"-type bulbing fennels. In English these fennels are sometimes called "bitter fennel." The young shoots and sprouts are used in cooking or salads, but the main event is the seeds (and the pollen). This particular variety is a new release from EFN, from plants that have survived four winters in the ground here in New Jersey (and one in a greenhouse before we learned it would survive outside) — which is why we've dubbed it 'Carosella Perpetua', which means "Perpetual Fennel." The majority of our original seedlings died, so we hope these last few survivors have genes for cold-hardiness and longer perenniality. It's not unusual for fennel to perennialize (it is generally considered a "biennial or short-lived perennial"), but five winters is a long time.
Our original stock seed came from the USDA, which got it from Spain's National Institute of Agricultural Research under the name "Carosella" or "Italian Fennel." The aroma of this fennel is incredibly strong — like a cross between licorice and cannabis. The stems and fronds have a slightly blue shade to them, and are firmer and less branched than other fennels. Seed production is high. This is also a great variety for producing fennel pollen, which is becoming a high-value crop for in-the-know growers. We're very excited to be offering these seeds for the first time.
GROWING TIPS: Direct seed around last frost, or start seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before last frost and then transplant to garden. Harvest young shoots (after the first year) for culinary use. Seeds and fennel pollen are wonderfully flavorful.