Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oops! (or, how to end up with a lot of fennel)

Last year I wrote about my love of fennel.  It is a lesser-known garden crop, but one that I love.  I use fennel in Jamie Oliver's deliciously complicated homemade ketchup recipe that I make and can every year; I also add it to homemade vegetable stock and it is a great addition to the mirepoix step of any soup (chop it up and add right in with the onion, celery and carrots).  It is also good raw in salad, and I'd love to try this recipe for fennel relish.  I also recommend the fennel pickles at this restaurant if you having brunch in Philadelphia.

This is totally store-bought.
However, my own growing of fennel has been spotty at best.  Last year the plants did not yield much, as least not in terms of nice healthy bulbs.  The green fronds at the top are nice for adding flavor to soups (or seafood, which is not something I eat, but apparently pairs well), but the white part is where it's at!  So this year I did a few things to improve the chances of getting some good fennel bulbs:
  1. Improve soil
  2. Plant more
  3. Buy mulch with which to "mound up" around the base of the plant.  Soil did not seem to be sufficient last year.
  4. Spill a ton of fennel seeds by mistake and just sit back and watch what happens.
Well, this happened:

The row in the back (flanked by the gnomes) was on purpose.  Most everything else was a mistake.  I thinned these out and will see how things go, if I need to thin them out more.  Also, it's hard to tell from this aerial photo, but the mulch is "mounded up" around the base of each plant to cover the developing white bulb.

Like so.

Fingers crossed, I'll have some of my own fennel to use this year!

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