In the community garden, children love to nibble on fennel flowers and seeds – so much better than the garishly coloured sweets available from the spaza shop nearby.
Fennel is at it’s best in winter. Everything about fennel is beautiful – the delicate feathery fronds, the fat bulbs, the scent, the sweet aniseed flavour, the yellow flowerheads (so pretty in salads), the fragrant seeds with many uses.
We are harvesting in the garden now if you want to stop by and get some. Interestingly, according to many companion planting guides, other vegetables dislike growing near fennel – but they don’t seem to be bothered by fennel in Mpophomeni!
Known as Imbozisi in isiZulu, it is used in traditional medicine to chase away bad spirits. The leaves are sprinkled throughout a house to cleanse it, or an infusion is drunk.
Fennel tea is used to aid digestion and relieve constipation and recent research indicates that fennel reduces the toxic effects of alcohol on the body.
It’s delicious on hot winter days as a crunchy salad – sliced thinly with segmented oranges (also in season now) and sprinkled with salt, pepper and olive oil.
On cold winter days it can be added to any vegetable stew, or cooked with sweet potatoes (also in season now) for a creamy soup. Interesting how things which are growing in the same season are often perfect combinations.
Cut fennel bulbs into quarters (or sixths if very fat). Cut potatoes into sixths lengthwise. Fry in quite a lot of olive oil for a while to get some brown edges and then add whole garlic cloves, strips of lemon peel and a handful of sundried tomatoes. Add a little water to soften, as this is absorbed, add a little more. Stir often. Be gentle. You are aiming at an unctuous sauce with bits of dissolving potato and browned, soft fennel. It takes a while. Add lots of chopped flat parsley, some fresh tomatoes if you have them and generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Our recipe book Mnandi – a Taste of Mpophomeni includes these fennel recipes and many other ways to use fresh vegetables in season. Why not pre-order your copy now? It will be available in August 2016. R200 plus postage – contact email@example.com or Liz at 072 098 3985