4 Aug 2010

The pleasures of fennel

Common fennel plant in flower.
Our beautiful fennel plant. It's about 6 feet tall. This is common fennel. The fennel that has the broad, bulbous base that's eaten as a vegetable is Florence fennel.

Close-up of hoverfly on fennel flowers.
Hoverfly on fennel flowers.

Fennel seeds.
We love fennel here. My seven-year old granddaughter and I pop a few seeds in our mouth from time to time for the pleasure of the aniseed taste and the mouth-refreshing effect. If we're out in the garden, we'll often chew a frond of the leaves or a few of the small flowers. Fennel seeds are good for the digestion. They can be chewed or drunk as a tea infusion. Fennel is rich in vitamin A and contains calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

Fresh fennel seeds, not yet dried.

These fat, juicy undried seeds are our favourite to chew, though they do taste quite strong.

Occasionally, I like to break up a few seeds with my nails and sprinkle them on top of tobacco in a cigarette, for an aniseed-scented smoke. I remember some cigarettes years ago, I think they were Malayan, that had cloves in them with the tobacco. They were an interesting and pleasant smoke too.

Smoke Plants of North America: A Journey of Discovery Illustrated EditionI already knew that mullein was a common ingredient in herbal tobaccos, but to learn more about what herbs can be smoked, I bought the book, 'Smoke Plants of North America' by M R Ross, about the plants smoked by the Indians. There's a recipe for a smoking mixture with fennel seeds, with hops, mullein, skullcap, damiana and mint. I haven't tried this mixture, but it seems an interesting one. The author says of it that she loves "the heavy, sensual calming effect of the hops and skullcap together. Hops has a funny smell kind of like ripe cheese, but it smokes with a nice flavor and no aftertaste."

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