Slightly sweet with a vague anise flavor, sweet fennel bulbs add a distinctive flavor to any dish. Harvesting your own sweet fennel provides the freshest flavor, as you will be able to harvest and prepare the bulb the same day. Just two months after planting, your sweet fennel bulbs will be ready for harvest, but the flavorful leaves can be plucked as soon as the plant reaches 6 inches in height. Picking your fennel bulbs while still young prevents the bulbs from becoming tough and woody inside. Use the fresh bulbs raw or cooked to bring a sweet crunch to your plate.
Snip off the top 2 to 3 inches of the leaves before the plant flowers, and use the leaves as a fresh herb to add an anise flavor to recipes.
Remove the soil from around the base of the fennel bulb once it has reached tennis ball size.
Sever the base of the bulb from the roots with a sharp knife.
Wrap the bulb in plastic wrap and refrigerate, unwashed, for up to one week.
Cut the top from the fennel bulb and chop or slice the bulb.
Submerge the chopped or sliced fennel in a bowl of water to rinse out dirt between the bulb layers.
Drain the fennel and use raw in salads or cooked and added to recipes.