“In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke their tender limbs.”
- Henry David Thoreau
Birds will be heard more than seen as you walk through the dense woodlands as migrant birds will be busy feasting on the abundance of insect life in preparation for their long journey south. Try and encourage butterflies into your garden by having something for them to eat. Adult butterflies feed on nectar and they like plants with long tubular flowers such as Buddleia, red valerian and verbena. However, you can help them by providing a feeding station. Fill a cereal sized bowl with ripe chunks of brightly coloured fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries, oranges) and top with some fruit juice (pineapple) to intensity the aroma and release the sugars. Choose a sunny spot – you could even hang the bowl in a hanging basket. The fruit can be left out for three days before it needs to be replaced. This month the garden is alive with colour and you will find the best tasting and maybe cheapest fruit and vegetables at your local market. Try and buy local as they are fresher, tastier and more nutritious with extra flavour, extra crunch and extra juiciness. Talking about crunch look out for Fennel. It is often mistaken for celery but Fennel has a much different taste that is a little similar to anise or liquorice. Raw, it is a wonderful crisp addition to a salad but it can also be braised and roasted, it is very flavourful and versatile.
Scientifically known as Foeniculum vulgare, fennel is an edible herb belonging to the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots and parsley. It is native to Europe and related to other herbs that have fragrant flowers (referred to as seeds), such as anise, cumin and dill. Virtually all of the fennel plant is edible, the roots and stalks can be cooked and eaten as a main vegetable, the stems and bulb can be chopped and added to salads, the chopped leaves can be added to soups and baked with fish. Fennel seeds are used in pickles, liqueurs, tomato sauces and sausages and fennel oil is used in sweets, liqueur and perfume.
When buying fennel look for fresh fronds and plump, firm bulbs that are without splits or discolouration. Fennel will stay fresh for up to three days if refridgerated. Store seeds and ground fennel in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. Nutritionally, fresh fennel is a good source of fibre, Vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese and beta-carotene as well as phytochemicals and flavonoids. One cup of raw fennel bulb contains almost no fat or cholesterol.
If you are having a barbeque this month try this spread to have with crackers or crudites as a starter whilst waiting for your main goodies. You will need a blender or food processor.
Fennel and Almond Spread
Ingredients (serves 6)
• 3/4 cup (120g) whole blanched almonds, toasted*
• 1 large bulb fennel (about 550g), trimmed, coarsely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped
• 4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
• 1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
• 2 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
*(To toast almonds – place in a heavy ungreased frying pan over medium heat and stir often until golden brown)
1. Process almonds in a blender or food processor until finely ground. Add remaining ingredients and process until a smooth paste forms.
2. Season to taste with salt, pepper and extra lemon juice, if desired. Store, covered in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.
Did you know?
• Flies are said to dislike fennel, and powdered fennel has been used to keep flies away in kennels and stables.
• Today, Fennel Seed is widely used in India as an after-dinner breath freshener and an aid to digestion.
• The name fennel originates from the Greek word for “marathon” which is the famous battle at Marathon in 490 B.C. where the Greeks fought against the Persians who fought on a field of Fennel.