Wednesday, August 14, 2013


For the first time, I attempted growing fennel in the garden.  I am pretty new to the fennel bandwagon--I discovered I liked it this past summer when the local co-op had it on sale, and I bought one to try out a really great carrot-fennel soup recipe.  Fennel smells like very strong black licorice, and raw, yes, it tastes like it.  But when it is cooked, you get the perfect hint of freshness and slight anise that sings.  If you've ever had traditional Italian cooking, you'll have had dried fennel seeds in some dish or other--they give a nice "pop" of freshness to the tastebuds.

It's a statuesque plant, with its fat bulb squatting on top of the dirt and feather fronds of leaves reaching toward the sky.  It proved to be fairly easy to grow, as well.  I started the seeds indoors in March in little peat pots, and once it finally warmed up enough, I plonked them into a spare bit of the back garden and mulched them with rabbit poo. 

Everything does better with a side of rabbit poo.

Now, in early August, the plants were easily three feet tall with wide, gorgeous bases, ripe for harvesting.  A good friend wandered out and pulled the largest of them (it sounds like there are a couple of smaller ones that were shaded out by their competitive brothers) this morning.  Waiting for me in the kitchen are five fairly giant fennel bulbs--oh, the wealth!  I opted to share the feathery leaves with the Ladies in the Coops--they had a great feast this morning on the Clearings from the Refrigerator--as I know I will have yet more leaves I can dehydrate and save in my herb stash.

But what to do with all this fennel?

First, I plan to cook up a dish of fennel, baked with cream and Parmesan.  I found it on Allrecipes (follow the link here) and it looks quite good and simple.  I think it will be a great side for a dinner of roasted chicken with tomatoes and olives.

Second, I plan to slice the remaining bulbs thinly.  They will then be blanched, packed into freezer bags, and be tucked into the freezer for enjoying when winter comes.  It will be perfect for casseroles, or soups, or stews, anything that needs a little kick of something different.

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