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Two Fennel Recipes

One of the things we had in the Fall Italian Garden was bulbing fennel, which you may sometimes see in the grocery store labeled “Anise.”

This is the fennel that was harvested before the cold weather set in a couple weeks ago. Most of it was pretty good sized. As a recap, we started the seeds indoors and then transplanted in early August. It is edible at any size of bulb development, and I know that sometimes people like the smaller ones to roast whole. The bulbs were good sized a few weeks before we harvested, but I always like to see how big we can grow things in the fall and how long they will last in the garden.

So…what do you do with bulb fennel? I had tried a fennel gratin recipe several years ago that was pretty disgusting, so I went looking for some better options. I ended up with a recipe for Roasted Fennel, Carrots, & Shallots and another recipe for a Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella (bread salad). It was a bonus, since we had radicchio in the garden too!

I cut the tops off the fennel, quartered it, rinsed it well (there was some dirt between the layers, but not too much), and tossed the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I sliced the carrots, and topped the red bunching onions. The original recipe called for shallots, but I had a whole bunch of these red bunching onions from the garden as well that were pretty sweet, so I opted to use them instead. These were also tossed with oil, salt, and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet.

Everything was roasted at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

The finished product! (Technically the recipe called for garnishing with parsley and a few fronds from the fennel tops. Oh well.) This dish was a huge hit, even though it was so simple. Sometimes the simple dishes are the best. Almost everyone really enjoyed the flavor of the roasted fennel.

The second recipe was actually a bit more complex, even though it was a salad. I also didn’t manage to get pictures of every step, so bear with me. Here’s a link to the original recipe: Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella.

The first step was to toast the bread. The cubes of bread were tossed with lemon zest, oil, salt, and pepper. Then they were toasted in the oven until just crisp. (Not all the way to crouton stage.)

The dressing was pretty simple: minced shallot (I subbed the red onion again), chopped parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper, all whisked together.

The fennel was easy to deal with. I just took a couple of the smaller bulbs and thinly sliced them. Done!

Then the radicchio…

Eew! When I harvested it, the outer leaves looked good, but as I peeled it down to the inner head, I got to this slimy layer. I don’t know if this is normal, if the plants were too crowded, if it was too warm and wet for most of the fall, or what the story was. I’m sure that many of you, getting to this point, would have just chucked the whole thing in the trash and moved on. Luckily you have me to delve through the slime to find out if there was anything good underneath!

What do you know! There was something worth having! One of the heads that I stripped down still had some good green leaves before getting to the red interior leaves. The others needed to be cleaned further, down to the red leaves. But the radicchio “hearts” were just fine to use. No sliminess in evidence at all.

Here’s the bigger “green exterior” head sliced. The center is nice and red. (Recap again: the radicchio was also started inside and transplanted in early August.”)

The final salad: the bread, radicchio, and fennel were tossed, as well as some halved green olives, chopped parsley, a little cheese, some salami and the dressing. It was a colorful and interesting salad. Because the greens were all radicchio, it had a stronger, more bitter flavor than our American palates are used to. Some people really liked it and others didn’t care for it. To make it appeal to a broader audience, I added some sweet lettuces (like bibb lettuce) to cut the bitter greens a bit. The fennel really wasn’t very prominent in this dish by the time everything else was added, but it was a great use for radicchio!

Friday PhotoEssay – October 17th

We may be on an every other week schedule for Friday PhotoEssays for the rest of the month. Next week looks pretty crazy, and then we’re doing garden cleanup the following week.

Other than the shade covering half the garden, there aren’t a lot of visible changes without closer inspection. Some of the warm season plants that are still in the garden have gotten a little zapped with the colder nights.

Case in point: the Cuban Oregano (or Ajwain, since it’s in the Taste of India Garden), has clearly experienced some cold injury with the browning and curling of the leaf edges.

In contrast, the radicchio is finally starting to show some nice red color! Most of the plants are also forming heads slowly, although they aren’t yet very solid.

There are two different types of spinach here. The one on the left is ‘Donkey’ and the one on the right is ‘Giant Winter.’ We usually just pick a variety and plant it, so it is kind of fun to have two different types right next to each other. The Donkey variety is a little slower growing, has more rounded leaves, and the leaves are partially savoy (crinkled). The Giant Winter has larger leaves, seemed to grow faster, has longer stems, and has smooth leaves. Taste? Pretty similar, at least right now.

Next year the Herb of the Year is Savory, so we wanted to get a head start by planting some of the perennial savories in the garden this year. The summer and winter savories both died, but the Creeping Savory has taken off! It is blooming now, and looks great!

We did strip some of the quinoa seeds off the stalks, and tried out the “blow dryer” method of separating the seeds from the chaff. It actually worked pretty well! It isn’t perfectly clean, but it’s a start.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – September 26th

It is fall, yet it still seems a little bit summery around here. I looked at the long range forecast (45 days), just out of curiosity. Because the forecast is so accurate for 3 days out, that clearly 45 days is worth my time. Anyway, it looks like we could have a pretty long, mild fall if the forecast is some semblance of accurate. The first day that the forecast currently puts us below freezing is Nov. 8th. So if you haven’t planted something for fall, you should! At least lettuce or spinach!

Not a lot of change from last week, I don’t think. Maybe the tomatoes are looking a little bit sadder.

I think it is safe to say that the Indian vegetables, especially the gourds, are rather fond of Kansas summers. They have completely covered the trellises, and are now taking over the cowpeas on this side and the peppers on the other, as well as part of the walkways. I think we’ll have plenty of material for the compost bins when the time comes!

This is the current state of the Cicoria ‘Orchidea Rossa’ that we transplanted out in early August. (Translation: ‘Orchid Red’ Radicchio) It is actually starting to head up a little bit in the center, but there is nary a red leaf to be found. You can see just a hint in the veins occasionally, but we need some colder weather to get good color!

Hmm…I have a suspicion that some of our quinoa dropped some seeds before we harvested… I guess we can just eat the greens for salad this fall!

We planted this Brazelberry ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ plant (it’s a shrubby raspberry) in the accessible raised bed this week. I don’t know if we planted it soon enough to survive the winter, but if it makes it, it will be interesting to watch next summer.

I haven’t posted all that many pictures of the flowers this year, but these ‘Bronzeleaf Rose’ begonias have been stupendous.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay

Hopefully this is the first of a full season of Friday PhotoEssays! There’s just a few things up right now, but the garden is going to start changing quickly.

I don’t know why, but I’m loving watching the shallots grow. Maybe it’s because I know there was only one bulb planted in each spot originally, and there is now a clump of stems coming up from each spot. I love watching the multiplication! So much more fun than regular onions, or even garlic.

Speaking of garlic, this is the ‘Maiskij’ variety. It is huge already! Those stems are about the same diameter as a quarter! This variety is either going to be VERY early maturing or the bulbs will be huge by late June.

To put it in context, the variety in the background is ‘Maiskij’ (no, I have no idea how to pronounce it), and the one in the front is ‘Siberian.’ It is healthy, but not nearly as big as ‘Maiskij.’ There are some varieties that are currently even smaller than ‘Siberian.’

This radicchio is unfurling a little bit in the warmth and sun from earlier this week. I’m not quite sure what it’s doing, but I’m afraid it is going to bolt. I noticed today that it was curled back up a little more, so we’ll have to keep an eye on it.

Yes, it’s a handful of dirt. No, make that soil, folks. One more picture, and then I’ll explain.

Yes, I know. Another handful. Can you tell which handful of soil is moist and which one is dry? Maybe? It’s a little hard with our current soil to get a really good differentiation in the pictures, but the first picture is moist and the second is quite dry. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to take pictures of differences in soil moisture and temperature (because, you know, warm soil looks so much different than cold?!?). I finally decided just to take a couple pictures and explain.

Because we’ve had (and still have) straw mulch over a good portion of the garden this winter, you can really tell the difference it makes in both soil temperature and moisture. The mulched areas have nicely moist soil, while the bare areas are dry. However, the mulched areas are much cooler. You can easily distinguish the difference in soil temperature by touch, because the mulched areas feel almost cold to the touch, especially after you have touched the unmulched soil. There are definitely some pros and cons to mulching through the winter!

Have a great week!

Friday PhotoEssay

I thought I would sneak in with a PhotoEssay this week and then perhaps highlight some more new varieties next week. We are also having our first planning meeting next week, so I may have some things to report regarding our plans too!

This is the spinach that is growing in our cold frame. It had been closed, but I opened it back up this week. Just in time for the rain, too! The plants that are on the end nearest the sidewalk are much larger, and I think it has to do with the amount of sunlight they are getting. The plants on the other side of the cold frame get shaded by the wall of the cold frame. That would be the argument for either a plexiglass side on that end or for a shorter wall on that end.

The overview of the radicchio patch looks pretty depressing. It obviously didn’t care for the cold temperatures of the past few weeks without protection. It is interesting though how distinctly you can tell where the green variety and red variety were planted.

If you get down close to the red radicchio, you can see that some of the larger plants have tolerated the weather pretty well and are even starting to develop the heads in the centers. I’ll be interested to see if they survive through the winter and how they continue to develop.

I pulled one of the ‘Red Beard’ onions just to see how they were doing. These are bunching type onions, so this is about the size you would expect them to be. They are still doing quite well without protection, as are the shallots and garlic. You can tell from the tips of the leaves that we’ve had some cold temperatures, but the plants are still healthy.

Did you know that you can eat the roots of onions like this? They are a little tough at this age, but you still get that nice onion-y flavor. Maybe something interesting for a salad garnish?

Last but not least is the rosemary. It is looking really good, even though most of the herbs are dead/very much dormant. I expected the thyme to look better, but I think it is either not the most hardy of varieties or it had too much vigorous, young growth late in the season that has gotten zapped by the cold. It’s still alive, just not looking too tasty, especially compared to the rosemary.

Speaking of Thyme, we will be highlighting thyme as our local Herb of the Year as well as Elderberry (the official herb of the Year) at Herb Day (May 4th) this year. Can you believe we have already started working on Herb Day?!? Yikes!