Sunday, September 5, 2010


This is a bit of a continuation of my post on herbs. This is one of the swallowtail butterflies. (Eastern Black Swallowtail) It would have markings in a lovely shade of bright blue on the top of its wings. It just wasn't interested in being cooperative. It is here because it is end end product of a caterpillar, the celery caterpillar, that eats fennel and makes its chrysalis on the fennel plant (among others). Anise Swallowtails will have caterpillars that eat fennel also.
This is the bloom on the bronze fennel (foeniculum vulgare) that we grew this year. Those yellow flowers will eventually turn into fennel seeds that I can use for cooking. The foliage and stems can be used in salads or in cooking. They have a licorice flavor. This one doesn't seem to form a bulb at its base like Florence Fennel, and all green version.
And this is the caterpillar. It is about 2.5 inches long and not very camouflaged, to say the least. There were 4 on the one plant and I noticed them from quite a distance.
A bit about the 2 kinds of fennel. Fennel was brought to this country in the 1600s by Spanish explorers, to what is now California. Bronze Fennel is hardy in zone 5 and warmer and can be grown as an annual in colder zones. It is feathery and has the most wonderful bronzy color leaves. Not much in the garden can match that color. It has a long tap root and so plant it where it can stay because moving it will be difficult or impossible. It grows in full sun to part shade and seems at least moderately drought tolerant.
Unlike the herb fennel which is a perennial, the veggie fennel is an annual, Herb fennel makes usable seeds, but not an edible bulb and veggie fennel makes that wonderful, round, edible bulb, but not seeds that can be used for anything except growing more veggie fennel.
When I first grew veggie fennel, it was difficult to find any recipes for it. Most cookbooks were lucky to have even one. With the internet, that problem has been solved, and finging lots of recipes is easy, but sliced raw in a salad or with dip will probably still be my favorite.

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