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In-the-way vegetable a delicious salad ingredient

Recipe: Fennel pairs with celery hearts for a crunchy side dish

Fennel and celery slices in a red bowl edged with red leaf lettuce
Dressed and ready to serve, this salad is crunchy and flavorful. (Photos: Kathy
Morrison)

The fennel had to go, there was no question. I had plopped it into a corner of a raised bed last fall when I changed plots at my community garden. But now it was HUGE -- not to mention in the way of the spot where I wanted to put my Sweet Chelsea cherry tomato. And everything I've read says fennel is an anti-companion plant to tomatoes.

So the Giant Fennel of Carmichael was pulled up, and some of it went into a delicious salad. We had it alongside chicken, but it would be absolutely perfect with grilled salmon, if you're so inclined.

Note: As with any salad, the ingredients can be varied to one's taste. The New York Times recipe this is generally based on included radishes, radicchio and slivers of Parmesan, all of which I chose to omit for various reasons. I used about half the dressing, so there would be plenty if you decide to double the salad ingredients.

Fennel bulb on a green cutting board
This is the fennel I used in the salad. It was less than one-third
the entire plant I pulled out.

Fennel-celery salad with lemon and herbs

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

Dressing:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 or 2 lemons)

1 or 2 garlic cloves, smashed but left mostly intact

Freshly ground pepper

Kosher salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad:

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (save some of the most tender fronds for garnish)

1 celery heart, inner stalks and leaves, thinly sliced (at least 1 cup)

Handful of snow pea pods, optional, halved

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Several basil leaves, thinly sliced

Baby greens, all one kind or a mix, for serving

Garnish:

Reserved tender fronds from the fennel

Parsley and basil leaves on green cutting board
The parsley came from my garden, the basil from a plant I just
bought a few days ago. (It won't miss those leaves.)

Instructions:

Put the lemon juice, zest and garlic clove(s) in a jar or small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then whisk in the olive oil (a small fork works great for this in a jar). Set dressing aside for at least 10 minutes.

To make the salad, put the sliced fennel, celery and snow peas (if using) in a salad bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Remove the garlic from the dressing, and whisk the dressing again to combine. Pour over the vegetables and toss. Sprinkle the parsley and the basil over the vegetables, stir in, and taste, then adjust the seasonings.

Line the edge of the bowl with the baby greens. Sprinkle the fennel fronds over the salad and serve.

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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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