The botanical name of the fennel is Foeniculum sativum. This name derives from the Latin name indicating hay, the scent given off by the plants. Native to Southern Europe, it was known by the Greeks and Romans primarily as a medicinal plant and used as such until 1600. Historical testimony during this latter date indicates that it became of culinary use near Florence. Today, it is consumed mainly in Italy, France, and England, and used little in other countries. Its medicinal properties are mainly linked to its roots and seeds. Anethole, an essence with digestive, diuretic, carminative, and expectorant qualities is extracted from the latter, and is also known to have a role in antimicrobial activity.
Cultivation begins with the transplantation of the seedling, which is placed in the soil, in a groove several centimeters deep. This allows one to perform the tamping around the time in which the bud may be finishing its enlargement to protect it from sunlight and allow bleaching (in modern varieties, this practice is not indispensable anymore as buds that are exposed to light will remain white and tender). Fertilization must take into account that the ratio of the removal of NPK from the soil is 6:1:7, with a clear preponderance of nitrogen and potassium. A good fertilizer for sustaining the production of 3 kg / sqm will therefore include: 3 kg / sqm of organic compost, 30 g of ammonium nitrate (part during the soil's preparation and part on top of the soil), 50 g / sqm of superphosphate, and 50 g / sqm of potassium sulphate. In northern Italy, the transplanting period runs from late July to mid-August, for harvest before the cold season (the plant is not resistant to frost). One can also cultivate during spring-summer, transplanting in April for harvest in July. Planting density is 9-10 plants per square meter, with a distance of 40 cm between rows and 20 cm between plants on the row. The harvest is done at the time when the bud has reached its maximum size; it is carried out manually by cutting the root and then cutting part of the leaves. In general, a small percentage of plants form a smaller bud and are called "finocchielle"—small fennel. This tendency is a genetic occurrence that can contribute only a minor role in any cause associated with stress suffered during cultivation.
Among the particularly damaging insects to remember are aphids, beetles, and mole crickets. For the first, one can take steps with compounds of natural pyrethrum. For the others, it may be useful to place poisoned baits, or recur to handpicking. With regard to fungal diseases, mildew is particularly harmful and can be eliminated by spraying sulfur; sclerotic, on the other hand, can be contained by transplanting the plants in healthy soils not recently occupied by the same crop.