Sunday, August 14, 2011

Justify My Fennel

Mom called me a few weeks ago to chat. We got to complaining about our fennel. “Mine isn’t making any bulbs,” I said.

“Mine isn’t either,” she replied. Earlier this spring, we had split a six-pack of bronze fennel seedlings. We had checked the tag carefully to make sure it would make bulbs. We’d been assured it would. It hasn’t.

“Guess we got sold a bill of goods,” I grumped.

The fennel has been making really pretty leaves, though. It looks wispy and airy in the garden. I read in one of my garden magazines that fennel flowers are good for bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other amusing pollinators. So when my ne’er-do-well vegetables started to bloom, I didn’t stand in their way.

I thought bronze fennel ought to earn its keep at least once this summer, so I snipped some leaves into a cucumber salad. Not only does the leaf look great against the pale green of the cucumber, but the flavor complements the sweet-sour of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sugar in the dressing.

I, though, am not the one who has most been enjoying the fennel this summer. I went to the garden today to admire my fennel, and I found something that makes up for any disappointment I might have felt before. There was a big fat black swallowtail caterpillar munching down one of my plants.

Hooray! You keep at it, sweetie. When you finish that one, there are three more just like it.

Cucumber Salad
Better get some before Swallowtail finishes it all off...

4 cucumbers
1 small sweet onion
2 t salt
2 t sugar
¼ c apple cider vinegar
3 T olive oil
A few grinds of black pepper
2-3 T snipped fennel leaves

Slice the cucumbers and onions. Toss them with the salt and set aside for half an hour. Briefly rinse them, then drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk the rest of the ingredients together. Toss them with the cucumbers and onions. Done!