The base, “bulb” part of Fennel has a crisp texture and a very mild liquorice taste, but mild enough so that many people who don’t like liquorice don’t seem to mind Fennel.Fennel can grow 3 to 5 feet tall above ground (1 to 1 1/2 metres.) The bluish-green leaves, called “fronds”, are as feathery as dill leaves are. When Fennel is allowed to flower, it will produce yellow blooms. The plant will behave like a perennial where the winters are mild. In fact, only in its second year will it produce a lot of flowers and seed.
All of Fennel is used: the fronds, the stalks, the bulb and the seeds. The base looks a bit like celery, in that it is the base of the stalks all clumped together,and is a whitish pale green. It is often called either the bulb or the root, though it is neither.
There are two main varieties of Fennel. One, developed mainly for production of Fennel seeds, is called Sweet Fennel (“Foeniculum vulgare var dulce”); the other, developed for eating in its own right, is called Florence Fennel (“Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum.”) Sweet Fennel is treated as a perennial and left in the ground to produce seeds. Florence Fennel is treated as an annual, with the entire plant being pulled out for eating.