Pretty little self

Already the catalogues are touting seeds for fall vegetables, and it's amazing to see the beauty of some varieties. You really wouldn't mind showing off these cabbages and kales in your front garden or container. They're as ornamental as any perennial and then some.

The place to see such vegetable beauty in real time is Chanticleer in Wayne, where I chatted with Doug Croft the other day. Doug is one of seven horticulturists at Chanticleer, and he's in charge of the vegetable and cutting gardens. There's always something really interesting going on in his gardens. This year, Doug and another gardener refinished a stunning wooden bench that's placed inside the fence, so you can sit and admire the frilly purple kale, among other delights.


Of course, this is where your nongardening friends roll their eyes. They probably can't imagine doing such a thing on purpose ... only if someone tied you up and made you look. But we know better, and our under-control blood pressure proves it. There's so much to see in a vegetable garden!

Like this fennel, which I had to take a picture of. If you aren't Italian, I was told not long ago by an Italian friend, you missed something delicious in your childhood. I'm trying to make up for it. Last year I grew fennel for the first time.

I like its pale green color. It's very clean and fresh-looking. The feathery fronds are an attractive feature. And it's just the right size. Doesn't spread sideways. Doesn't flop over. Fennel just stands there getting full around the middle.

My Italian friend also suggested I eat fennel raw in a salad or as a crudite. She was right. Raw fennel is very tasty. But so is sauted fennel. Actually, to tell the truth, I could live happily without raw or cooked fennel in myh life. Sometimes I think it should just grow in my garden and be its pretty little self all summer. Now doesn't that life sound inviting ...