'Perfection' Bulbing Fennel
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~90
Germination tested 11/2022: 90%
Life cycle: Biennial or Perennial
Perfection' is the quintessential "bulbing" fennel, whose stem swells up into a bulbous shape in its first year of growth. This "bulb" is the vegetable known as "fennel" (or sometimes "anise"), though the slender fronds are also edible and have a similar licorice-like flavor. Many people who dislike that flavor have come to appreciate fennel, because once it's well cooked, especially caramelized, it loses the licorice flavor and instead takes on a rich, sweet taste all its own.
Fennel is also a nutritional powerhouse. A raw fennel bulb (235 grams) consists of 212 grams of water, 2.91 grams of protein, 0.47 grams of fat, and 17.2 grams of carbohydrate (including 7.28 g of dietary fiber and 9.24 g of sugars), providing a total of 72.8 Calories (kcal). The 235g bulb provides 115 mg of calcium, 1.72 mg of iron, 40 mg of magnesium, 188 mg of phosphorus, a whopping 973 mg of potassium, 122 mg of sodium, 28.2 mg of vitamin C, as well as choline, several B vitamins, folate, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, and vitamin K, and trace amounts of zinc, copper, and selenium.
Fennel has medicinal uses as well, with recorded traditional use against a range of conditions including various digestive problems like heartburn, gas, bloating, loss of appetite, and colic in infants; upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, and bronchitis; cholera; backache; bedwetting; and visual problems. The plant also has antibacterial properties, may improve mental health, and can reduce inflammation.
Considered a biennial, it can become a short-lived (or sometimes long-lived) perennial in even moderately warm climates. We have a small patch of perennialized bulbing fennel at the farm in southern New Jersey. These seeds come from Wild Garden Seeds in Philomath, Oregon.