Drying Your Fennel Harvest
Learn how to dry fennel with several different options to suit your requirements
Drying the seeds is the most popular way to preserve Fennel for home use. It is used in culinary dishes all over world and can be added to salad dressings, pickles and a variety of home canning projects. It is the best way to preserve the most flavor of the herb as the leaves loose quite a bit of the distinctive flavor when dried.
Drying the Seed Heads
Clip or cover the seed heads from the mature Fennel plant as soon as you notice that the flower heads starting to set seeds. Seeds usually mature rather quickly, so act soon.
- Small paper bags with slits or holes cut in the upper part of bag for air filtration. If you cut the slits too low, you will risk loosing seeds.
- Rubber bands or twine
- Garden or kitchen shears or clippers
- Place the small paper bag over the seed head while it is still on the plant and secure with twine and clip from the parent plant. If using rubber bands, after placing the bag over the seed pods, gather the bag around the stem and clip the seed head from the plant. Secure the bag around the stem with a rubber band.
- Hang the seed head bags upside down in an airy, dry place to dry. The seed should separate from the seed heads within a few weeks.
- Shake the dried pod bags to loosen any other seeds and pour onto a piece of wax paper or parchment paper. Remove the stems and any other debris to separate the seeds and pour into a small spice container for use in the kitchen or for planting in the Spring!
NOTE: If you do not mind that some seeds may escape during the collection process, you may clip the seed heads and gather into bundles to be placed in the paper bag. Just remember that the more plant material to be dried in one bag the longer it will take for all of the seeds to dry.
For Drying the Leaves
Fennel looses a lot of its distinctive flavor when the leaves are dried, although the seeds are used most often in dried form. The procedure is included here for your information, in the event that you wish to dry the Fennel leaves. This method is not recommended for the seed heads, especially if you are saving the seeds to plant next year.
- Garden or Kitchen shears
- Basket or other container suitable for Fennel sprigs
- Salad Spinner or two clean kitchen towels
- Rubber Bands
- Clothes Drying Rack, Dry attic or porch
- Small Brown Paper Bags (optional)
- Gather your Fennel harvest in the morning hours after the sun has dried away the dew of the night.
- Arrange the sprigs into small, loose bundles and secure the stems with rubber bands to assure that the bundles stay together as they dry. Be careful to alternate the branches to allow for good air filtration between the fine leaves.
- If using brown paper bags, cover each bundle with the bags that have slits cut into the sides to allow for adequate air flow around the herbs. The paper bags keep dust off of the Fennel as it dries and the sunlight from bleaching out the color. Care must be taken to make sure that enough air flows through the bag to keep the Fennel from molding. If the weather has been humid or you experience rain for a few days, it is particularly important to check the bags occasionally to make sure, and, if need be either cut more holes in the bags or remove them. Sometimes the moisture builds up inside the bag, especially if the sun hits it, allowing fungus and mildew to form. Discard any molded leaves or bunches.
- Hang upside down in a warm, dry place such as an attic or porch until the leaves are brittle to the touch, approximately 2 weeks.
- Gather the dried bundles and place on a sheet of wax paper.
- Crumble the dried leaves and separate out all of the tough stems onto the wax paper.
- Pick up two corners of the paper to form a funnel and place over the mouth of the jar. Pour the dried fennel into a clean, dry jar and seal. The leaves can also be vacuum sealed into pouches.
The air tight jars or vacuum sealed bags can be stored in a dry, dark place such as your pantry or cupboard, or even your freezer, with proper care.
Dried fennel and fennel seeds can be used in soups, stews and sauces for vegetables, a stuffing for fatty meats and fish or in salad dressings, breads and cakes. In the Mediterranean, the dried stems are used when grilling meats and fish by throwing them onto the coals as the meat cooks.
Oven Drying Method
Fennel can be dried in the oven at the lowest temperature, or, if you have a gas stove with a pilot light, spread out on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper in a single layer. Because the fronds are so feathery, the leaves will dry quickly.
Special Note: If using cookie sheets to dry the herbs, place the herbs to be dried on parchment paper to avoid direct contact with the metal trays. Metal contact darkens the color of the herb being dried, causing the herb to loose its bright green color.
- Salad Spinner or two clean kitchen towels
- Kitchen shears or good chopping knife
- Chopping board or block
- Parchment Paper
- Cookie Sheet
- Wash and gently spin dry the fresh Fennel sprigs.
- Pick out the discolored leaves and woody stems.
- Preheat your oven to lowest temperature setting. Arrange the oven trays, spacing them out evenly within the oven.
- Chop or clip herbs into 1/4" pieces onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet or place the whole leaves on the paper in a single layer.
- Place in oven on racks for 30 minutes or so. Start checking the oven every 10 to 15 minutes to judge the progress of the drying.. The Fennel will be dry when it crumbles easily between your fingers. Drying times may vary according climate conditions and relative humidity.
- Gather up the parchment paper into a funnel and place smallest end over the mouth of a clean, completely dry jar and seal tightly. Vacuum sealer bags can also be used for long term storage.
Place jar in a dry, dark place such as your kitchen cabinet, pantry or even your freezer.