Clemson Extension School and Community Garden Program

Trying something new in the garden and the kitchen this summer

I usually grow the same staple vegetables in my garden year after year.  Tomatoes.  Cucumbers.  Zucchini.  Peppers.  Don’t get me wrong – I love growing them, and they are delicious!  But this year, I decided to mix things up a bit and grow some less traditional vegetables – fennel and pineapple tomatillo.

I started my fennel and my tomatillos inside from seed in February before transplanting them outdoors at the end of March.  Both are currently thriving, and this week I harvested my very first fennel bulb!  And now I have little, tiny tomatillos starting to grow.

While I had no trouble growing either crop, the question remains, “How do I use these vegetables once they’re ready to harvest?”  This is a question many gardeners have when growing a less traditional variety and often a deterrent for gardeners from trying something new.  If you are one of these gardeners, see some of the recipes below-featuring fennel and tomatillos.  Whether you are currently growing these in your garden and are wondering what to do come harvest, or whether this inspires you to try growing your own “weird” vegetable next season, I hope these recipes help!

Grilled Fennel

2-3 Fennel bulbs, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

2 TBSP plus more for coating fennel bulbs, Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh thyme chopped, to taste

Fresh parsley chopped, to taste

Fennel fronds chopped

1 TBSP Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

  1. Prepare the fennel: When using fresh fennel from your garden, you will first need to cut off the stalks and fronds. Next, remove any hard or inedible outer sections of your fennel, and cut a small slice off of the bottom of the bulb.  Try to keep the core intact while doing this, as the core will help hold your fennel together as you slice it.  To slice the fennel, hold the bulb vertically and slice from top to bottom in ¼ inch sections holding the knife parallel to the bulb. Prepare a medium-hot pan for your fennel slices.  While your pan is heating up, coat each fennel slice with olive oil.  Place your pieces onto the medium-hot pan.  Flip the slices over every 30 seconds, and continue until you have a nice char on each side.  Once charred, set slices on a plate.
  2. Whisk together 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, thyme parsley, fennel fronds, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Pour over the fennel slices and serve.

Cutting a fennel bulbPickled Fennel

1 fennel bulb, sliced

½ yellow onion, sliced

1 ½ cups rice vinegar

½ cup sugar

Chives chopped, to taste

Dill chopped, to taste

2 tbsp peppercorns

2 cloves garlic, halved

2 tsp salt

Orange peel of 1 orange

  1. In a pot, mix rice vinegar, sugar, peppercorn, and garlic. Bring to a boil.
  2. In a bowl, toss fennel, onion, chives (cut into 1” sections), dill (in large pieces), orange peel, and salt. Once tossed, place ingredients in a mason jar or similar container that has a seal.
  3. Pour hot vinegar mixture into the mason jar over the fennel. Seal the jar and place it in the fridge.
  4. Let sit in the fridge for approximately one week so that the pickling process can take place.

The following recipe can use regular tomatillos or pineapple tomatillos, depending on how much fruity flavor you like.  Traditionally tomatillos are used in salsas, relishes, and chutneys.  Try playing around with different flavor combinations, and maybe make a chunky salsa instead of blended!

Pineapple-Tomatillo Salsa

6 tomatillos

1 cup diced pineapple

2 cloves garlic

1 cup diced red onion

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 lime, juiced

1 habanero pepper

½ cup cilantro

  1. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and cut them in half.
  2. Heat a skillet to medium and add olive oil. When hot, add tomatillos, pineapple, garlic, onion, and habanero.
  3. Cook until charred, and then transfer contents to a food processor. Blend until almost pureed.  Mix in cilantro and lime.




Megan Shearer, Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening Program Assistant

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