As promised earlier last week my blog regarding the growing of fennel – and my scrumptious fennel, watercress and blood orange salad recipe.
Fennel comes in two main forms:
(Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum)
To grow the big white bulbous stemmed fennel you need to choose this form it is the only form that has this attribute and it is best in warmer climates to be planted it in autumn. The bulb is often classed as a crisp root vegetable even though it is actually the swollen stem.
Which has the typical feathery foliage in green and also a very striking bronze coloured foliaged form.
Sweet fennel is grown mainly for its foliage and seeds and does not form the large white bulb at the base of the plant. The Sweet fennel is generally grown as a perennial.
Fennel originates from the southern parts of Europe and loves a sunny position in free draining alkaline soil with a reasonable amount of organic matter.
In the subtropics the Florence fennel which is a biennial but usually grown as an annual I find does best when planted in the autumn. Both plants can grow to around 1.5m sometimes taller depending on climate.
The flavour whether using the foliage, bulbous stem or seeds is aniseed and is a great accompaniment to fish, chicken, various salads anywhere you wish to have an aniseed flavour.
Great salad combos with fennel are, apple, orange, carrot and celery, just to name a few. All parts can be sautéed, stewed, grilled, or eaten raw.
The foliage of both the fennel forms can be easily chopped up and added to meals, the delicate yellow flowers are not only pretty and edible but attract a large variety of beneficial insects to the garden.
If you’ve been a Masterchef follower this year they used small pieces of the fennel foliage as a garnish in some amazing dishes by crystallizing it – beautiful.
The seeds are also commonly dried and used anywhere an aniseed flavour is required.
I personally love growing the bronze fennel not just to eat but for its beautiful foliage, which can make a great contrasting plant when planted with other herbs that have grey and green foliage and even in the flower garden, it can be a stunning addition.
Fennel, watercress & orange salad.
1 Fennel Bulb – finely sliced
2 blood oranges
1 bunch of watercress
1-2 celery stalks finely sliced
2 tbsp of fennel fronds
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1. Peel the orange and remove any white pith and cut out each segment. Do this over a bowl to save any juice.
2. To make the dressing, whisk the lemon and orange juice with the mustard, sea salt, pepper, olive oil.
3. Shave the fennel as finely as you can lengthways and toss in the dressing with the orange segments, watercress, fennel fronds, parsley and celery.
4. Place on a dinner plate tossed or place the orange segment out neatly and mound fennel and watercress mix on top. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve.
Customize your Fennel & Orange Salad
by adding perhaps…
- thinly sliced radishes,
- finely chopped chillies to heat it up,
- a touch of garlic,
- chopped mint,
- chopped walnuts
- or even add some pomegranate,
have a bit of fun ☺