Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a widespread vegetable, spice and medicinal plant. There are several varieties that are easy to grow yourself. The right harvest time is important so that the best possible aroma is achieved.

harvest time

The optimal harvest time depends on when the Foeniculum vulgare was sown. A distinction is made between early and autumn varieties. Approximately twelve weeks are expected from sowing until the fennel can be harvested. The situation is different when the seeds are harvested. If you want this, you have to wait until the flowering season in midsummer.

It should be noted that sowing or planting outdoors can generally only take place from mid-May after the ice saints. This means that if cultivation is started early, this should be done in frost-free areas, such as a greenhouse, by the “deadline date”. However, not all fennel varieties are suitable for this.

The following are the most popular fennel varieties with possible sowing dates:

Sow fennel from April and harvest from June:

  • Atos – resistant, traditional variety, mild aroma, very delicate
  • Selma – bolt-resistant variety, fast-growing, fine taste
  • Zefa Fino – bolting fennel bulb, spicy taste, to sow/plant until summer

Direct sowing from May and harvest from July:

  • Bolognese – refreshing, finely spicy taste, popular as a raw vegetable, also suitable as a late variety
  • Match – very robust, intense flavor
  • Heracles – aromatic, very productive

Sow late varieties from the end of June and harvest from September:

  • Spice fennel – has no bulbs, very fine aroma
  • Sweet Bolognese – juicy, slightly sweet, delicately spicy
  • Zefa Tardo – can be harvested until the end of October, mild taste
Note: In many cases the fruits will ripen in less than twelve weeks if planted in mid/late June. Due to the usually warmer weather, the fennel is usually ready to harvest after six to eight weeks at the beginning of August.

ready for harvest

The perfect harvest time cannot be specified exactly, as the weather has a major influence. Therefore, the harvest time can definitely be pushed back. So that the optimal moment is not missed, a look at the fruit can be used to tell whether to harvest or wait. If the fruit shows the following characteristics, it is ripe:

  • Fist-sized lump
  • Still slightly stocky looking
  • Fine, multipinnate leaves visible
  • Bluish green leaf colour
  • Firm tuber consistency
  • Tuber color has changed from green mainly to creamy white
  • Not woody
  • Spice fennel: soft, tubular stalk

Missed harvest time

If the optimal harvest time has been missed and the tubers are already showing signs of woody growth, this is no reason to pull them out and dispose of them. Fresh leaves for salads and mixed vegetables can be harvested in just a few simple steps. That is how it goes:

  • Wait for the seeds to ripen if you want to harvest them
  • Cut off old leaves close to the bulb
  • Care of the tuber as usual/recommended
  • New sprouting of the leaves takes place
  • Not possible later than the end of September/beginning of October, since possible night frost from the end of October endangers plant growth

Harvest properly


The fennel seeds are ideal as a spice and for tea preparation. The seeds can also be harvested when they are immature, but in this state they have significantly less essential oils and therefore less aroma. The ideal time to harvest seeds is when the plant begins to wilt. The flowering period is between the beginning of July and the end of September. Yellow flowers form as double umbels. Following are the correct steps for seed collection:

  • Cut off the stalk completely down to the bulb
  • Tie with ribbon at the end
  • Hang upside down in a dry and well-ventilated place
  • Lay newspaper or something similar underneath
  • As the soil dries, seeds fall to the ground and must be collected


No matter when the Foeniculum vulgare was planted/sown and whether the optimum harvest time has been reached, the last harvest time is at the end of October at the latest. To do this, proceed as follows:

  • Tool: sharp knife
  • Cut off the tuber just above the ground
  • With cuttings by the beginning of October at the latest and mild temperatures, new leaves are possible
  • Roots in the ground form a new tuber in perennial specimens in the following year

Store harvested fennel

After harvesting the fennel bulb, it can only be kept for a few days at atmospheric temperature because it loses its aroma with each passing day and becomes fibrous and hard. It is at its tastiest with a fine structure when it is processed for consumption within 48 hours. It can be kept chilled in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you want to benefit from the harvest for longer, freeze it. To do this, it must be blanched beforehand and then frozen in suitable portions. Once thawed, it should be consumed immediately. It can be stored in the freezer for at least six months.

The fennel herb and the seeds are ideal for drying in the air. This means they can be stored for a long time without losing their aroma. It is important that they are stored in a dry place.

Harvesting flowering fennel

In the case of numerous herb and vegetable plants, the fruits become inedible at the beginning of flowering because this produces bitter substances. This is not the case with fennel bulb. However, the flower stimulates fiber formation, making the tuber increasingly less edible. It is therefore advisable to always harvest the tuber before flowering.

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