Valentine's day has come and gone, but while we're on the subject of LOVE, let's talk about Fennel.
Along with most of my favorite foods, fennel originates in the land of lovers, the Mediterranean. In ancient Greece it was called marathon and it's stalk was used by Prometheus to steal fire from the gods and give it to mankind.
Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) is a hardy perennial. In southern California it is considered an invasive, non-native plant; you may have seen this wild sister growing along roadsides near the coast with her intensely aromatic fruit waving her feathery fronds- coarse & unrefined without any hipped up bulb.
At Rio Gozo Farm we grow one of the cultivars of Florence Fennel - known for its white swollen bulb that can be braised, sautéed, grilled, or made into a gratin; however, let's not neglect fennel's other fine attributes. The seeds (or fruit) smell like anise and are often used as a flavoring in Italian meatballs or enjoyed as a breath freshener after Indian food. The leaves can be used in teas or tossed in salads while the stems are good juiced or used in stocks. Fennel pollen is a specialty food and I hope it makes its way into the share. Gozo farmers are more than happy to start a fennel renaissance through Rio Gozo Farm Ventura CSA. Who's in?
It's going to be a marathon, get your fennel fires ready!
My favorite fennel recipe is a fennel gratin from Alice Water's book Chez Panisse Vegetables.
There are a lot of fennel gratin recipes on the web, try a few.
-how could you go wrong with caramelized vegetables baked with cream and browned with parmesan and breadcrumbs?
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