One of the biggest victims of this summer’s slug epidemic was the Florence fennel. Three separate sowings of this apparently easy to grow veg yielded one scrawny pale and limp bulb with a tuft of leaf that looked more like a hairy nipple than an edible veg.
But it’s not just the mucus emitting menaces that will be breathing aniseed flavours this year because, in one of the unkempt corners of the allotment, we have a towering old giant of a fennel which has now gone to seed.
Fennel seed is one of my favourite flavour enhancers and, in our house, doesn’t just get scattered on the recommended grilled fish or spicy Indian dishes, but is liberally tossed over almost anything that gets an oven roasting – from parsnips to pears. And if you can collect your own seeds then you’ll be rewarded with the freshest fennel flavour around.
Before you can use and store your seeds you need to collect and dry them. And it’s this easy…
1. Snip off the fennel fronds when the seeds turn from green to brown.
2. Wash away bugs and dry on a kitchen towel.
3. Strip seeds from stalks and scatter on a tray.
4. Place in an oven at a low temperature for half an hour or until completely dry.
5. Store in sealed jars whole or crushed into powder.