In 1995, Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, was the first herb to be named by the International Herb Association as Herb of the Year™️ in their new educational program, a program that is going strong to this day, and recognized worldwide by other Herb and Botanical groups and Societies.
That said, I didn’t join the group until 1996 when Monarda didyma, Scarlett Bee Balm, was HOY (#herboftheyear). I tried to grow Bee Balm that year, as I’ve tried to grow every HOY every year since but I was wholly unsuccessful with monarda. The only thing that that experience did for me was to make me forget that Fennel was the very first in the series, I always have to look it up, since my first HOY was and will always be Bee Balm . . .
Why am I telling you this?
1.) 25 years later (!) I am finally growing Fennel!!! More about that in a moment.
2.) This year’s HOY is Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, and that botanical name is more than just a passing nod to fennel. More about that another day.
Until then, Karen is a contributor to this year’s HOY book and it is for sale here from her Edgehill Herb Farm Store
Back to reason number one – in all these years, I haven’t grown fennel. That is, until now, but ‘boys howdy’ am I growing it NOW! It’s too bad I didn’t grow it earlier because a variety of fennel grows wild in some places near my two acres here in Vista, California and I could have known it would take off for me if I planted it, by looking at my surroundings. Alas, there is not a Bee Balm as far as the eye can see growing in my area. Another clue to what will thrive in my yard and what won’t.
Look around your area and see what grows in the wild spaces, those weedy patches are full of native herbs! And watching what thrives there will give you clues to being a successful herb gardener both in the ground and/or in pots at your place.
Just because something doesn’t grow in the wild around you or around me doesn’t mean it won’t grow for us but it does mean that it may take some serious strategy on our parts to position the plants well enough for success.
I am very excited to be able to cook with my first homegrown fennel.
My cat chose a Jamie Oliver recipe for me to make with it (does your cat pick your recipes to make? No? Well, you are probably better off because my cat doesn’t always pick this well. Today however – it worked out.)
The only change that I made to Jamie’s Potato & Artichoke Al Forno recipe that Whiskey Kitty chose was that I added some cooked chicken to make it a main course for me.
This is such a banner day for me! I went from the garden in the morning to my own table at night with something so absolutely delicious. I would serve this at Thanksgiving! That’s how great it is!
My fennel harvest was so big it didn’t fit in my front door sideways, let alone fit into my gathering basket and harvesting colander.
Okay. I admit it, I’m proud!
Are you growing any of the Herb of the Year plants, listed below? I bet you are! Do tell!
Herb of the Year™ Selections:
2005 Oregano & Marjoram
2006 Scented Geraniums
2007 Lemon Balm
2009 Bay Laurel
2014 Artemisia ssp.
(Wormwood, Tarragon, et al.)
2015 Savory Saturea ssp.
2016 Peppers Capsicum ssp
2018 Hops Humulus ssp
2019 Anise-Hyssop Agastache ssp.
A couple years ago I did an educational exhibit about the HOY program displaying each of the Herb of the Year recipients for the Vista Garden Club’s Flower Show and that display won a ribbon!
I’m telling you this bit not to boast, although that is an added benefit to this story, but because it was the fennel plant that I bought to use in that award winning display and then I later planted in my garden that grew and flourished and self sowed its way into my dinner tonight!
Herbs really do make the difference!