Native Nurseries

Garden to Table: Roasted Fennel and Beet Salad with Tahini Herb Sauce

We are huge fennel fans here at the nursery. It’s a lovely vegetable and very versatile. Fennel is often sliced thin and eaten raw in salads or tossed in a creamy dressing and served as more of a slaw. When eaten raw, it’s crunchy, with a faint anise flavor, which is why I think some people shy away from it. Once it’s roasted or grilled, that anise flavor tames down and the fennel takes on a subtle, sweet flavor. The whole bulb, including the stalks and fronds are edible. I like to save the fronds for garnish and even sprinkle them on other dishes throughout the week. 

Parsley and Dill are also very good, versatile herbs that go well in sauces, soups, stews, salads and many other dishes that accompany this dish. Oh and we certainly cannot forego mentioning how all three of these herbs are great host plants for the black swallowtail buttery. Stop by the nursery to see our herb selection and more butterfly/herb gardening info. 

This recipe is what Elizabeth calls the "perfect winter salad" equipped with her favorite winter herbs and vegetables.


For the salad:
2 medium-sized fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch wedges (save the fronds for garnish)
4 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 cup French green lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 tablespoons fennel fronds
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill


For the sauce:

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon local honey
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

2. Toss the fennel and beets with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.

3. While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Taste test and adjust seasonings if need be.

4. To serve, divide the lentils between 4 plates and top with the roasted vegetables. Drizzle with the sauce and garnish each plate with fennel fronds, parsley and dill. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Homegrown taters!


To me, all homegrown vegetables taste better than store bought. A few, however, taste so much better homegrown that I almost never bother buying them from the store. Tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli and cucumbers all fall into that category. I never thought that potatoes would be included until I finally grew them at home for the first time five years ago. A spud was a spud, I assumed, and they were so inexpensive in the grocery store anyways. The whole process of growing and “hilling” potatoes also intimidated me.

Indeed, I was wrong. I grew Red Pontiacs that first year and have ever since. Garden-fresh potatoes are so creamy and smooth, they truly taste as if they’ve already been buttered-up for you. My favorite recipe for them includes fresh garden sage leaves, and is so simple, easy and delicious, it has become one of my favorite dishes (I’ll include the recipe below). I love this recipe so much; I tried making it after I ran out of potatoes one year and substituted them with store-bought. Well I learned my lesson. The homegrown potatoes were what made the dish so delicious. Those grocery spuds tasted like wax in comparison. How disappointing. Potatoes are also pretty easy to grow. Here in Tallahassee they are traditionally planted around Valentine’s Day, and harvested by May. My friends Katie and Aaron, who run Full Earth Farm in Quincy, have a traditional Valentines Potato-date every February. There are many ways to plant potatoes, but I’ve been most successful with the following technique;

Make a trench 10 inches wide and 4 inches deep on level ground. Place a 2 inch layer of compost in the bottom. Cut Seed potatoes in halves or quarters, making sure there is at least one sprouting ‘eye’ in each piece. Allow cut potatoes to air-dry and callus over for a few days. Press each, cut side down, into the compost in the center of the trench to form a hill about 7 inches above the ground. I like to then cover them with mulch to prevent weeds.
By the end of April, the green tops will start yellowing and dying back and that means those little taters are sizing up underground. I use a garden fork to lift up the tubers with the least amount of damage. This is my favorite part of the growing process, because it feels like you’re digging up buried treasure. It’s a great activity for kids (of all ages). So set a potato-date and save this recipe for your harvest!

Roasted Sage Taters


1. Preheat oven to 425°F. 
2. Scrub and dry the potatoes. 3.Pour the oil into a heavy oven-proof skillet, preferably of cast iron, and spread evenly. Lay a thick bed of sage leaves flat on the oiled surface, completely covering the bottom of the pan.
4. Sprinkle the salt over the sage. It may look like too much salt, but it’s not.
5. Cut small potatoes in half or large ones in quarters and arrange, cut side down, on the sage.
6. Bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender and the cut sides are crusty brown, usually about 35 min.


2 lb. Red Pontiac potatoes
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
20-30 fresh sage leaves
1 tsp. coarse sea salt 4 servings



Muhly Grass

Muhlenbergia capillaris (pronunciation – mew len BER jee uh kap pill LAIR riss), common name muhly grass, is an herbaceous, ornamental grass with a clumping form that grows 3 to 4 feet tall and approximately as wide. This tough Florida native is very tolerant of drought and flooding, moderately salt tolerant and thrives in a wide range of soil types (although sandy or rocky soil is best) making it a great choice for many landscapes. Unlike most grasses, it has a stiff, upright growth habit. In the fall, its wispy flowers emerge well above the foliage in a dramatically beautiful pinkish-purple display. But even after they’ve lost their color, muhly grass adds interest to the landscape due to its unusual form. For this reason, it is best to wait until late winter or very early spring to cut the clumps back to 6 inches. This will clear the way for new foliage and increase air circulation. Leaving the clumps unpruned over the winter also creates habitat for wildlife.

Plant muhly grass three feet apart in full to part sun (full sun is best) for a beautiful mass planting. You can plant them further apart of course, or use just one or a few to add interesting texture to a perennial garden. Muhly grass is a hardy perennial in zones 7 through 11; and other than a yearly pruning, it is virtually maintenance free. It’s great for cut flowers and even basket making. Slaves in the south (especially Charleston, SC) used to harvest the long, wiry grass blades and use them, along with other native plant materials, to weave sweetgrass baskets (one of the oldest art forms of African origin in the United States).

At Native Nurseries, we stock muhly grass most of the year in 1-gallon pots (and sometimes 3-gallon). Currently they are available in 1-gal. pots only. As always, give us a call to check availability before making a special trip (although we’re always happy to see you). Sorry . . . we do not ship plants.

Some information for this blog post came from the following sources –