Sunday, September 30, 2007
Ode to a Fennel Seed
Have you ever eaten fresh fennel seeds? Then you have missed an amazing taste sensation (ooh, I should be writing cheesy food commercials, shouldn't I). But I am feeling quite worshipful about these little seeds today. I'm even plotting to expand the herb garden next year. More fennel.
It started when we noticed the action on the fennel plants. Bees, butterflies, wasps, ladybugs, birds, you name it, they'd been all over the fennel plants throughout the summer. Some days the herb garden was TEEMING. I wish now that I'd taken a picture of the tiny brown skippers that lived on them for a few weeks. Flirty little things. We counted 25 one time on one plant alone. But by last week the small insects had pretty much disappeared and the plants were left to the birds.
When we looked out the other day, sparrows and chickadees were balancing as well as they could to the sides of the fronds, which really meant that they were swinging around wildly while pecking at the tips. Never one to miss a Learning Opportunity (especially when the alternative was housework and math), out we went to examine the plants further. Turned out that the birds were eating the seed tips at the ends of the fronds. So we tried them. Sharp licorice filled our mouths, and I mean sharp. It was almost ecstatic, that taste (well, I thought so, but my kids are a good deal more restrained than their mother and they restricted themselves to "Mmm, these are pretty good"). We pulled off more, then more, then more. They popped in our mouths, they were so tender. Later that day I went out and cut off most of the seed heads, and have them sitting in a bowl to dry. When dried they are a good deal tougher, but still amazing in curries and Thai-style soups. I might even make bread with them, or marinate them in salad dressings.
What are the sparrows and chickadees eating, now that I've removed the seeds, you ask? Oh, I put out a seed feeder for them. And I left them the bronze fennel.