Gunner was insistently sniffing each petal on a dandelion in the adjacent overgrown yard when I saw it. I had been following him, tired, arms hanging lazily, allowing the waning daylight to permeate me. I was already thinking of dinner and it seemed we had just begun walking. But my eyes went from lazy to silver-dollar-sized as soon as I saw it – a shaggy, determined yet delicate frond standing tall and wedged between the picket fence and the overgrown and uneven border where the sidewalk began.
Once this 2cm square spot that was holding Gunner’s attention released him we began trotting again, this bright green beacon upon us.Several of them in fact, and they were.
Wild fennel – willingly abloom right here on 59th and Vallejo. And on 65th and Vallejo. And along Alcatraz and into Berkeley. My excitement was visible to little Gunner who began sniffing and sniffing the bulbs, helping me to identify two to pluck from the unclaimed earth (by not, er, claiming them as his own,) and, with a couple of sturdy, swift tugs, we were on our way again and headed home, bushy green bursting from beneath my arm, bouncing with Gunner’s tail.
This little discovery not only encouraged me to remember that soil is soil and soil will grow…no matter where it is (patch and container gardens abound!) but also served as excellent news for my absolute favorite salad recipe. It is a special time of year when fennel, avocados, arugula and blueberries are all in season ripe for picking (or plucking) and in their element enough to share stage with one another. I make this almost constantly when these edible stars align and especially when cooking for one, throwing in grilled chicken, tofu or even fish or shrimp to make this a meal. Also, I serve this as a big one-bowl meal with bread on the side but this could just as easily be a composed course, plated and served individually. To do so, toss the greens and fennel and feta in the dressing and then arrange the blueberries, pepitas and avocado as you wish with the fronds placed last.