Fennel has made a previous appearance on Botany Photo of the Day (see Foeniculum vulgare and Rhagonycha fulva), with an entry focused on a beetle pollinator that captured my attention. The plants in the Garden caught my eye again last week when I noticed the stems forming a stained-glass pattern.
It’s timely to feature this species, given its association with an Olympics/Paralympics sport: the marathon. Quoting Wikipedia’s entry on fennel: “The Greek name for fennel is marathos (μάραθος) and the place of the famous battle of Marathon and the subsequent sports event Marathon (Μαραθών), literally means a plain with fennels”. The reference I turn to for spices and herbs, Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages, goes into far greater detail on the etymology of this ancient spice: Foeniculum vulgare.
Fennel is native to Mediterranean Europe, Africa and Asia, then east to Pakistan. However, it has naturalized worldwide in areas with similar climates or even mild temperate regions. Both the Wikipedia and Katzer’s Spice Page links above have extensive details about its culinary and/or medicinal uses.