Updated: Oct 21, 2020
In harvesting, timing is everything. Like a coastal ocean wave, like other unique beings, each plant, every weather condition, in one location, during a particular season, has its own story. Forget farms or orchards. This simple fact even applies to small almost-urban gardens.
Still there exist general rules for harvesting a plant. Today, I got it wrong with Fennel seeds. There is a sweet spot for harvesting Fennel seeds: a brief, in-between moment to capture. The seeds are no longer green and soft, but they're not yet a faded brown, not yet withered and bereft of their tiny plumpness. What you see in the photo: Fennel seeds that I should not have cut, and dried seeds that are too old. I can blame it on the weather, because it's been unbearably humid and hot outside, or it's been raining, so I've avoided being outside.
Or I can just let it go. There is always next year.
Instead of tossing them into my late summer tomato chutney, as I have done for years, I'll find another use for these Fennel cuttings. I'll share them with neighborhood children for exploration, smelling and fun. I am further comforted. Early this summer, I cut & dried leaves & made Fennel powder for cooking. Best yet - Female Black Swallowtail Butterflies visited this plant to lay eggs this summer, so it was a caterpillar home. We have several nests, with many hungry birds & I hope that some caterpillars make it to butterfly-hood.
Plants are generous; they do so much, for so many.
Fortunately Fennel is not needed in any Echotopia product; it's just delicious. I have successfully harvested the Echotopia herbs that I will need for 2021 production. That is, except French Tarragon for my Echotopia Tea Tree Tarragon Hand Scrub powder. This one proved almost impossible to grow, yet again, though in different growing conditions. But that's another story.