I love their delicate ferny leaves that stand so tall in the patch. I often pick a few bits off and skwunch (that's a word, right? or should it be spelt squunch with a double 'u' - one for the 'q' and one to give that 'uh' sound) them to smell their strong anise odour.
I have recently discovered a new way of growing fennel. Lately I have simply cut the bulb off the root and left the root in the ground. After a while, the root mass sprouts and several new little fennel start to sprout up at the edges of the bulb.
If they get to crowded, I break of some and let the others grow on. Once there is sun (none here at the moment!) then I find they grow really quickly, I guess it's becasue there is an established root mass. I love watching their little bulbs swell and thicken. Does anyone else grow their fennel like this?
The other night I used my last pickable fennel to make a favourite - a fennel, potato and bacon dish. I took this from that big thick Stephanie Alexander book several years ago now when I visited an aunt in Cairns. I jotted it down quickly on a scrap of paper which is now stuck in my recipe scrap book.This is my version below. I add chilli flakes but Stephanie doesn't. I have also made it before adding black olives as well.
Fennel, potato and bacon fry up (* from the garden)
1 bulb fennel*
olive oil (if you need it)
2 rashes of bacon
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 onion fine cut
1 clove garlic
Blanch and drain the fennel bulb, cut into nice chunky bits. Boil the potato and cut into pieces a similar size to the fennel.
Cut bacon into pieces and fry with the fennel seeds. Take the bacon to the colour and texture you like. Remove from the pan . In the bacony oil fry the onion and garlic, add in the fennel and potato and fry to your preferred browness, add in the bacon and fennel seed mixture and chilli flakes. Serve with parsley.
What do you do with your fennel?