So this is my second installment for showering love (they don't need more rain at the moment) on Oregon farmers. I started this series in early August as a way to write about some of my favorite local folks. It's also a great way to share various photos that I took while researching local food/agriculture stories -- photos that weren't published.
In the summer of 2007 I wrote a seasonal food story about fennel for the Portland Tribune. They used one of many photos that I took with the story so I've included a few here that didn't make it to print. In my original draft I wrote about Troutdale's Dancing Roots Farm apprentice Soleil Hutchinson of Eastern Canada who's pictured below and those couple paragraphs didn't make the cut. She was harvesting fennel when I visited and talked with me for awhile.
I asked Soleill if she remembered the first time she'd tried fennel and she said: "I'd never eaten fennel before I came here and I've grown a taste for it. I love black licorice and it kind of tastes like that. It's just kind of tricky cooking with it. I find that it loses its flavor so easily. I like it in salads the best -- raw so you get the full flavor."
And then quickly before she put the fennel in the box she...
Although I spent some time in the field with Soleil I also got to talk with Dancing Roots Farm farmer/owner Shari Sirkin while she was rinsing freshly harvested lettuce in a propped up antique bathtub vegetable rinse station in the barn. Shari's owned the 10-acre farm with her husband since 2002. Too bad I didn't take any photos of her. Sirkin told me that she likes to cook fennel low and slow so that it caramelizes with butter and a little salt. Yum.
I grow a lot of fennel every year in our front yard. My trick is to always let a few plants go to seed. Although they produce pretty flowers I let some go to seed so I'll get more fennel the next year. Once the stalks have dried I shake them and scatter the seeds.
I like fennel both raw and cooked but I've never dried fennel fronds and cooked with them. If you like rabbit, bacon and fennel and don't mind drying some fennel (or buying some dried) go here and check out the slow roasted meaty goodness.
Dancing Roots Farm Troutdale, Oregon 503.695.3445 www.dancingrootsfarm.com