What do you do when it’s time to harvest multiple vegetables at once? You have two choices: figure out how to preserve them and use them later, or combine them into one dish. We had never heard of adding roasted fennel and beets together and wow was it a nice dish.
The fennel and golden beets were grown a little differently this spring.
The fennel was planted indoors on April 8th, the seeds sprouted about 7 days later. I kept them indoors for only about a week before I placed them in the cold frame outdoors. If there’s any way to get the young seedlings into the cold frame quickly, that’s what transpires around our house. All the plants do so much better with sunshine than they do under lights in my basement. And it helps the electric bill too! Fennel doesn’t mind the cool weather so I let them grow for about 3 weeks in the shelter and safety of the cold frame, and then took about a week to leave the seedlings out to harden them off. They were ready to be planted and went into the ground on May 17th.
The beets were much easier. The seed went directly into the raised bed on April 26th. The only work on my part was to make sure they were watered lightly to keep the soil moist in order for them to germinate. They had sprouted by May 6th and I thinned them once on May 18th.
All in all, we ended up with 5 fennel bulbs to harvest and one 8 foot row of golden beets. All of these matured about the last 2 weeks in July. If you choose to grow fennel, watch it closely as it matures, once it bolts and goes to seed, the bulb gets tough. But you can always harvest the seeds and use them instead.
Harvest and Roasting
I harvested 4 average sized beets, one large head of fennel, and a medium sized onion. What is it about bringing things right out of the garden at dinner time that makes the whole meal better?
Once I washed the vegetables, lugged them inside, and placed them on the counter, my job was done. Phew! That was hard work. It was time to lounge around with my feet up and a glass of bourbon in my hand. Nice.
My husband, however, got to work chopping and prepping. He used this recipe from Food and Wine as a guide:
https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roasted-beet-and-fennel-salad. John is one of those chefs who is never satisfied with any recipe so he made his own adjustments. His changes included adding onion and a clove of our garlic from last year to the sliced fennel and beets. He did not use the fennel fronds.
Then he did the same thing with the golden beets and added some of our thyme out of the pot on the front walk. The fennel and beets were tossed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
He roasted each in the oven for their alloted time (beets roasted longer than the fennel) and then tossed them together with some balsamic vinegar. Wow they were good.
This dish is really lovely especially when almost all the ingredients we used were grown in our own garden and picked shortly before they were cooked. The fennel, while it smells quite strongly of licorice, actually has a mild flavor when roasted, and paired very well with the beets. We will definitely make this again if the fennel supply holds out without going to seed!