Foeniculum vulgare Mill. Umbelliferae. FENNEL. FINOCHIO.
Fennel was cultivated by the Romans as a garden herb and
was so much used in the kitchen that there were few meats seasoned,
or vinegar sauces served without it. It was used as a condiment by our
English forefathers. The plant is a native of temperate Europe and Asia.
It is now largely cultivated in central Europe, Saxony, Franconia and
Wurtemburg, in the south of France, in Italy, in India and in China.
Fennel was included among American garden herbs by McMahon,
1806. Darwin found it growing wild in the neighborhood of Buenos
Aires, Monti video and other towns. The leaves are used in sauces, the
stalks eaten in salads, and the seeds are employed in confectionery and
for flavoring liquors. Fennel is constantly mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon
medical recipes which date as early, at least, as the eleventh century.
The diffusion of the plant in central Europe was stimulated by
Charlemagne, who enjoined its cultivation on the imperial farms. Fennel
shoots, fennel water and fennel seed are all mentioned in an ancient
record of Spanish agriculture of 961 A. D. There are three different
forms recognized, all believed to belong to the common species.
In 1863, Burr describes a common and a dark-leaved form; in 1586,
Lyte's Dodoens' Herball describes in like manner two varieties. This is
the common wild sort, hardy and often spontaneous as an escape from
gardens. Bitter fennel is the Anethum foeniculum Linn., 1763, and the
Foeniculum of Camerarius, 1586. Sometimes, but rarely, the leaves are
used for seasoning but the plant is grown chiefly for its seeds which are
largely used in flavoring liquors. Bitter fennel appears to be the
common fennel or finckle of Ray, 1686, and the foennel and fyncle of
This form is cultivated more frequently as a garden plant than the
preceding, and its seeds are also an object of commerce. As the plant
grows old, the fruits of each succeeding season gradually change in
shape and diminish in size, until, at the end of four or five years, they
are hardly to be distinguished from those of the bitter fennel. This
curious fact was noted by Tabernaemontanus, 1588, and was
systematically proved by Guibort, 1869. This kind has, however,
remained distinct from an early date. It is described by Albertus
Magnus in the thirteenth century and by Charlemagne in the ninth. It is
mentioned throughout Europe, in Asia, and in America as an aromatic,
garden herb. The famous carosella, so extensively used in Naples,
scarcely known in any other place, is referred by authors to F.
piperitum DC. The plant is used while in the state of running to bloom;
the stems, fresh and tender, are broken and served raw, still enclosed in
the expanded leaf-stalks. This use is, perhaps, referred to by Amatus
Lusitanus, 1554, when, in speaking of finocchio, he says the swollen
stalk is collected and said to be eaten.
This form is very distinct in its broad leaf-stalks, which, overlapping
each other at the base of the stem, form a bulbous enlargement, firm,
white and sweet inside. This seems to be the finochi, or Italian fennel,
stated by Switzer, 1729, to have but recently been introduced to
English culture and yet rare in 1765. The first distinct mention is by
Mawe, 1778, under the name of Azorian Dwarf or finocchio. It is again
described in a very perfect form by Bryant, 1783, under the name of
Sweet Azorian fennel. According to Miller's Dictionary, 1807, it is the F.
azoricum Miller, 1737. Ray, 1686, uses the name Foeniculum dulce
azoricum, but his description is hardly sufficient. Finocchio is described
for American gardens in 1806. It does not seem to have entered general
culture except in Italy. The type of this fennel seems to be figured by J.
Bauhin, 1651, and by Chabraeus, 1677, under the name Foeniculum
rotundum flore albo.