I am so excited to let you know that bookings for LUNCH in the HAYSHED at our SPRING GARDEN FAIR with COOKS CO-OP's MARTIN BOETZ on 23 & 24 NOVEMBER are now open!
There will be two sittings each day: 12 noon - 1.15 pm and 1.30 pm - 2.30 pm
Places are strictly limited, so please click quick to make your booking!
Are you wondering about the fennel?
If you were following the podcasts you know only too well that I hatched the idea to use fennel as the symbol for this special weekend in a moment of great excitement back in January (and that I've been attempting to expand the quantity of it growing here ever since!). Despite its drought tolerance, getting new sowings established in a drought season hasn't been easy, but thanks to those few showers of rain, it's making progress (well...not the last mad attempt down at the carpark, but the other two new beds are coming along nicely)....and my old and abundant plantings in the kitchen garden are, fingers crossed, on track for their usual November show!).
I came to regard fennel as the most valuable plant of all in the garden some years ago. As a garden specimen, its tall feathery foliage topped by delicate, umbellifer flowers makes such a romantic vision; particularly if you grow it in lovely swathes! As a companion, it attracts good bugs, especially ladybirds and bees; and we all know how important it is to provide an environment in which they flourish.
As an edible specimen, there's hardly a week in the year when some part of the fennel plant isn't available to eat; although you do need to allow some to set and spill seed, to take full advantage of the entire annual cycle. It goes something like this:
In the spring, a fennel whose bulbous form you didn't eat during the winter and early spring months, will send up a flower stalk. The bulb won't be worth eating then, so enjoy the beauty of those multiple florets of fine flowers, which open green, but quickly colour to a clear yellow. Soon after, you could pick the flowers to scatter a fine dust of pollen over some delectable dish (I gather this sells in the shops for a hefty sum and have often wondered if I might make my fortune by harvesting it at this stage, but somehow I never seem to get around to trying!).
But if you pick the flowers to scatter the pollen, they won't be there to bring in the bees and ladybirds, so I don't pick many. And anyway, it's the next stage of the flower's development that I value so highly: on their long journey, those tiny flowers each fill out, developing into clusters of individual fresh green seeds that are plump with the taste of aniseed! I use them to sprinkle into leaf salads, over baby new potatoes, to scatter over fish or chicken...or just pop them to taste while on the hop in the garden. They are one of the gardener's greatest treats!
But of course, you don't want to eat all of those either! Because as summer progresses, the fresh seed dries, becoming the seed to harvest, in order to begin the cycle all over again....(and of course you can use the dried seeds in your cooking too). As the dusty scent of drying fennel swamps the garden during late summer, seed inevitably spills and it takes only a shower of rain to bring it to life; delivering a multitude of tiny new fennel seedlings to scatter over any dish as a fine herb.
Of course, throughout winter and spring, we eat the swollen fennel bulbs that I plant out in rows, solely for that purpose in the kitchen garden. Successionally planted, I can get two or three crops during the cooler months and into spring, before the days are too consistently hot (and have just popped some more into the garden for a hopeful late spring harvest).
It's all but at the tail end of summer, when the tall stalks die back and are cut and carted off to the compost, that the feathery fronds can be turned into a delicious pistou: whizz up a good quantity with a clove or two of garlic, a little salt and pepper, a drizzle of lemon juice and enough olive oil to make a consistency you like. It's delicious with chicken and fish, and many other things besides.
So these are the many reasons I chose fennel to represent our celebration of 30 years at Glenmore House! For its romantic, hazy, visual beauty; its great value as a companion plant and its almost constant edibility!
And its why Marty's sensational spring lunch will feature Fennel, Pea and Parmesan Risotto! Which is going to be utterly scrumptious!
Well that's surely enough from me this time! All details are now on the Open Garden web page. And....we decided pre-ticketing was all too hard, given there is no phone signal or internet connection at the point of entry. So...entrance will be very old-fashioned and by CASH ONLY! If you put away a $10 note or two now, you'll make entry for yourself and our volunteers at the gate very simple and easy!
I'll be in touch with more details soon. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Very best wishes