Frolicking In Fennel FrondsWhat’s growing now at Olana Farm: Basil (Thai, Italian, lemon), beets, carrots, celery, chard (Swiss, rainbow), chives, cilantro, fennel, ginger, kale (curly), lime (kaffir), mint, pak choi, papaya (green sunrise), parsley (Italian, curly), pea shoots, tangelo, turmeric, turnips.
Florence fennel is used as a vegetable, and has a mild anise flavor that mellows with cooking. Its large, bulblike base is eaten raw or cooked, the stems are used for flavoring stocks, and some people use the bitter fronds as an herb. Anise seeds are harvested from wild fennel.
Season: Here on Kaua’i, fennel prefers the cooler seasons of fall, winter and spring. It takes 80 to 90 days from seed to table, and Olana Farm begins harvesting in November and runs through June.
What to look for: Most people just sell the sweet bulb, but some farmers sell fennel with the bulb, stalks and fronds intact. Choose firm, plump, compact bulbs that are pearly white in color. Avoid brown spots or ones with cracks. If stalks are cut off, make sure ends are freshly cut.
Storage: Fennel bulbs don’t store well for long periods, as they dry out quickly. Wrap in a plastic bag and store in crisper for three to four days.Tip: Larger bulbs have a tough core. Cut in quarters and remove the core with a paring knife.
Preparation: Fennel bulbs can be eaten raw, or baked, braised, grilled, sautÃ©ed, steamed and stir-fried. Baby bulbs are tender and are best for eating raw in salads or for cruditÃ©s. Tender stalks can be used instead of celery. Bake fish on a layer of tough stalks, add to stocks or use to flavor poaching liquid. Stalks can be frozen for later use. Fennel pairs well with olive oil, butter, thyme, bay, parsley, orange, lemon, saffron, chicken, fish, seafood, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, garlic, Parmesan, gruyÃ¨re and goat cheese.
Health benefits: One cup of raw fennel has 23 calories, 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrates. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of vitamin A and iron. Fennel seeds are used as a digestive aid, to treat infant colic, to promote menstruation, milk production and relieves menopause symptoms.
Olana Farm produce can be found at:
Farmers Market: Kilauea Neighborhood Center (Thursday at 4:30 p.m), Namahana Farmers Market by Banana Joe’s (Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Restaurants: Lilikoi Lunch Wagon. Call 346-5936, or email email@example.com.
AKAMAI FENNEL SALAD
Several weeks ago, I wrote about Akamai Juice Company in my Tastes of Kaua’i column. Owner Cas Lutton is also a personal chef, and she contributed this zesty recipe. It’s a favorite with her clients, and I’m sure it will become one of yours.
* 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
* 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
* 1/2 cup ripe avocado
* 1 large lime or lemon, peeled
* 2 garlic cloves
* 1 tablespoon Kaua’i Sea Salt
* 1/2 teaspoon cayennepepper
Place all ingredients in blender on high for 1520 seconds until smooth.
* 1 cup julienne-cut fennel bulb
* 1 cup diced celery
* 1 cup julienne-cut purple cabbage
* 1 cup stemmed, julienne-cut kale
* 1/2 cup julienne-cut sweet onion
* 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
* 1 cup dried cranberries
Toss all together with dressing and serve.
Makes six to eight servings.