Uses The French Use Dill For Flavoring Preserves Cakes And Pastry

For these purposes it is of too strong and pronounced a character to be

relished by American palates. The seeds perhaps more often appear in

soups, sauces and stews, but even here they are relished more by our

European residents than by native Americans. Probably they are most used

in pickles, especially in preserving cucumbers according to German

recipes. Thousands of barrels of such pickles are sold annually, more

ecially in the larger cities and to the poorer people; but as this

pickle is procurable at all delicatessen stores, it has gained great

popularity among even the well-to-do. An oil is distilled from the seeds

and used in perfuming soap. The young leaves are said to be used in

pickles, soups and sauces, and even in salads. For the last purpose they

are rather strong to suit most people, and for the others the seeds are

far more popular.

Dill vinegar is a popular household condiment. It is made by soaking the

seed in good vinegar for a few days before using. The quantity of

ingredients to use is immaterial. Only a certain amount of the flavor

can be dissolved by the vinegar, and as few samples of vinegar are

alike, the quantities both to mix and of the decoction to use must be

left to the housewife. This may be said, however, that after one lot of

seed has been treated the vinegar may be poured off and the seeds

steeped a second time to get a weaker infusion. The two infusions may

then be mixed and kept in a dark cupboard for use as needed.


(Foeniculum officinale, All.), a biennial or perennial herb,

generally considered a native of southern Europe, though common on all

Mediterranean shores. The old Latin name Foeniculum is derived from

foenum or hay. It has spread with civilization, especially where

Italians have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of

the world, upon dry soils near the sea coast and upon river banks.

It seems to be partial to limestone soils, such as the chalky lands of

England and the shelly formation of Bermuda. In this latter community I

have seen it thriving upon cliffs where there seemed to be only a pinch

of soil, and where the rock was so dry and porous that it would crumble

to coarse dust when crushed in the hand. The plant was cultivated by the

ancient Romans for its aromatic fruits and succulent, edible shoots.

Whether cultivated in northern Europe at that time is not certain, but

it is frequently mentioned in Anglo-Saxon cookery prior to the Norman

conquest. Charlemagne ordered its culture upon the imperial farms. At

present it is most popular in Italy, and France. In America it is in

most demand among French and Italians. Like many other plants, fennel

has had a highly interesting career from a medical point of view. But it

no longer plays even a "small part" in the drama. Hints as to its

history may be found on page 54.

Description.--Common garden or long, sweet fennel is distinguished

from its wild or better relative (F. vulgare) by having much stouter,

taller (5 to 6 feet) tubular and larger stems, less divided, more

glaucous leaves. But a still more striking difference is seen in the

leaf stalks which form a curved sheath around the stem even as far up as

the base of the leaf above. Then, too, the green flowers are borne on

more sturdy pedicels in the broader umbels, lastly the seeds are double

the size of the wild fennel seeds, 1/4 or 1/2 inch long. They are convex

on one side, flat on the other, and are marked by five yellowish ribs.

Though a French writer says the seed degenerates "promptly," and

recommends the use of fresh seed annually, it will not be wise to throw

away any where it is not wanted to germinate, unless it is over four

years old, as seed as old even as that is said to be satisfactory for


Cultivation.--In usual garden practice fennel is propagated by seeds,

and is grown as an annual instead of as a biennial or a perennial. The

plants will flourish in almost any well-drained soil, but seem to prefer

light loams of a limy nature. It is not particular as to exposure. The

seed may be sown in nursery beds or where the plants are to remain. In

the beds, the drills may be 6 inches apart, and not more than 1-3 inch

deep, or the seed may be scattered broadcast. An ounce will be enough

for a bed 10 feet square. When the plants are about 3 inches tall they

should be transplanted 15 or 18 inches asunder in rows 2 to 2-1/2 feet

apart. Some growers sow in late summer and in autumn so as to have early

crops the following season; they also make several successional sowings

at intervals of one or two weeks, in order to supply the demands of

their customers for fresh fennel stalks from midsummer to December or

even later. The plants will grow more or less in very cold, that is, not

actually freezing weather.

If sown in place, the rows should be the suggested 2 to 2-1/2 feet

apart, and the plants thinned several times until the required distance

is reached. Thinnings may be used for culinary purposes. For family use

half an ounce of seed, if fairly fresh, will produce an ample supply of

plants, and for several years, either from the established roots or by

reseeding. Unless seed is needed for household or sowing purposes, the

flower stems should be cut as soon as they appear.

Uses.--Fennel is considered indispensable in French and Italian

cookery. The young plants and the tender leaves are often used for

garnishes and to add flavor to salads. They are also minced and added to

sauces usually served with puddings. The tender stems and the leaves are

employed in soups and fish sauces, though more frequently they are eaten

raw as a salad with or without dressing. The famous "Carosella" of