Tiny little seeds beckoned excited glances and little hands to explore as we began our herbal adventure this week with fennel. Did you know that fennel is a wonderful tummy soother? It relaxes smooth muscle, eases inflammation and even acts as an expectorant all while tasting pretty yummy!
What Does It Taste Like?
We started our day at preschool with a tea tasting as well as trying some fresh fennel bulb at snack time. Most of the kids liked the tea and I got to refill many cups! The fresh bulb was only embraced by a few little ones with adventurous palates.
So, what does it taste like? Well, the tea tastes a bit sweet and smooth with a definite taste of fennel seeds. In general I like to blend fennel seeds with other herbs for a tea but nothing beats tasting a simple infusion to really get the sense of a plant. The bulb has a juicy crunch with a sweet anise or licorice flavor. It is really quite lovely.
To make your own tea simple steep up to 1 tablespoon of seeds per cup in hot water for 15 to 30 minutes. Then strain and enjoy!
We furthered our culinary exploration with fennel by making fennel candy, kinda like the kind they have to munch-on on your way out of an Indian Food restaurant. This activity came directly from A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra. If you haven’t seen this book, you are missing out. Totally fun and informative with tons of stories and activities for kids of all ages.
Recipe ~ From: A Kid’s Herb Book
- 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon sugar, we used sucanat
- 1/4 teaspoon of water
Combine in a pan. Heat to dissolve the sugar and coat the seeds.
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons water
After we got acquainted with fennel we came to the fun hands-on part of the day, planting fennel babies! Before planting our babies we made them a nice home, little “baskets” for them to begin their sprouting.
- Cups or other container, I was lucky to find cups made from recycled materials!
- Chenille Stems
- Foamies or other decorations
- Little Chicks, so cute!
- Fennel Seeds, of course! I did buy these at the local plant nursery. I don’t know if the seeds I bought at the grocery store would sprout and I didn’t want to take any chances.
- Hole Punch
- PREPARE ~ Punch at least two holes opposite each other just under the rim of the cups. If you want to add a ribbon decoration around the top of the cup then punch holes all the way around the rim of the cup.
- RIBBON WEAVE ~ If doing the ribbon decoration, have the child pick out a ribbon. Leave enough ribbon sticking out from where you start the weaving to attach it when you are done weaving. Then help the child thread it in and out of the holes around the top of the cup so it is woven around the perimeter of the rim and attach it the the other end by tying a bow. I didn’t do this part with the kids this time, so I don’t have a picture to show you. My hole punch was not working well and I was lucky to get the two necessary holes punched in each cup.
- DECORATION ~ Lay out your decorations, we used foamies, and have the kids decorate the outside of their cup.
- CREATE A HANDLE ~ Attach a chenille stem to one of the holes you punched in the top of the cup and have the child bead the stem leaving a bit of room to attach the opposite end of the stem to the other side of the cup.
- PLANT THE BABIES ~ Fill the cup with dirt about 2/3rd full. Have the child poke a few holes in the dirt and put their babies (seeds) in the dirt. Then they can give their babies a blanket by covering them with dirt. Next give them a drink of water! We used about 3 seeds per child incase they don’t all sprout.
- SELECT A NANNY ~ Next let the child pick out a chick to watch over their babies. You certainly don’t need to use the chicks but I just can’t resist, they are SO CUTE!! And the kids love them so much!
- FINISH THE BASKET ~ Finally attach the loose end of the handle if you haven’t done so and write the child’s name on their cup. You are all done!
The day ended with each child happy to take home their new babies and some candy for their families. When their babies are strong enough and the danger of frost has passed, they will be ready for a new home outside. Lots of fun with fennel!