Along the rolling hills of the San Francisco Bay Area, there is an abundance of fennel plants. Towering high above the rest of the ground cover with its feathery leaves, much of the year it blooms with tiny yellow flowers covered in sweet nectar, which you can lick right off the flowers. In the dead of winter, however, the fennel plant has another amazing gift to give – its seeds! Today I bundled up and took to the hills to forage my winter harvest. And, in about 15 minutes I had more fennel seed than I can use in a year. For free!
Harvesting fennel seeds is fairly simple. Once you note that the plant looks dead and some of the tops have begun to lose their seeds, you know it’s time. Simply take a seed head and rub it between your two palms in a circular motion (no need to remove the seed head from the plant). The seed head will release the seeds. Pick out any other plant debris and store your seeds in an airtight container.
Use seeds in soups, teas, rubs, sausages, salad dressings and meatballs. I’ve even had candy-coated fennel seeds, which are pretty awesome.