Green Fennel is another feathery friend growing for years in my garden, feeding the Papilio machaon or swallowtail butterfly caterpillar.
We are in competition for the leaves, as these ethereal little creatures can eat through a whole plant in a day or two and as I usually let the fennel grow among my carrots and parsley, they will move onto their leaves once the fennel devastation is terminated. So by the end of the summer my carrots and parsley are also bald.
Dill plants that grow wild are known as dillweed and are a little more weed than dill so in other parts of the garden I have to plant out the true dill from my own seeds. If mistreated when young they will bolt straight to the seed stage avoiding leaves. I also have to try and keep them far away from fennel and coriander as they will cross-polinate and their flavours will become muddled but dill prefers a moist, wind-protected, shaded spot with not too much compost and should be sowed out at different times all through summer so there is a constant supply of leaves. Unfortunately the swallowtail is also a great fan.
Fennel leaf loves the sun and fertile soil and no great attention while dill needs love and care.
The seed-heads of both are cut when still unripe and green and tied up in a paper bag to be kept in a warm space. The seeds are then so easy to remove from the husk when rubbed in the palm of your hand.
We use the dill seed for flavouring fish and pickling cucumbers or cauliflowers.
The fresh flowers are added to salads and the leaves can faultlessly aromatize rice. Its an excellent digestive and makes the ideal after-heavy-dinner, nightime tisane. Cures an upset stomach, insomnia, flatulence and hiccups … A marvel !
Fennel is best when nibbled at in the garden like a bonbon. Its aniseedy, sweet taste is to die for, especially when green and juicy.
When dry they are rubbed into the flesh of pork with crushed garlic and dried chili flakes or used to marinate a fresh loin of tuna, the leaves in salads or in the dressing and as a tisane at night to aid a tummy.