Wild fennel and sardine bucatini

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“You’re really into your foraging at the moment, aren’t you,” a friend said to me recently.  And I guess I am. In part it was because I was busy in Spring with writing, work and life in general – too busy to get around to cleaning up my vegie patch and putting tomatoes and other summer crops in.  But I like home grown.  So I thought I would treat the great bush capital of Canberra as my giant vegie patch.

Wild fennel sardine bucatini

One of my favourite things to forage in summer is wild fennel.  It grows in thick clumps next to roads, and begins to make its presence known in early summer (best around Christmas time).  You probably never notice it until you realise what it is, then it seems to be everywhere.  My favourite foraging ground is in the industrial suburb of Fyshwick – I love the concept of eating something that is tenacious enough to survive in the concrete jungle.

I was a bit late foraging it this year, so it is already starting to flower and go to seed.  You can eat the flowers and seeds as well – I loved this recipe from Susan’s Sumptuous Suppers for fried fennel flower fritters.  But this pasta recipe, a variation of a traditional Sicilian recipe, uses the leaves, which impart a unique and subtle aniseed like flavour to the dish. (You can substitute Italian parsley or other fresh herbs if you can’t access fennel leaves.)

Cooking artisan style durum wheat pasta
Cooking artisan style durum wheat pasta

This is nice cooked with bucatini pasta which is a type of thick spaghetti – somewhat old fashioned, but comforting. I didn’t use it as I had artisan style thick durum wheat pasta – so I used that.  As I am dieting, I allowed only 75g of pasta per person (or 300g in total) but use more up to 500g total if you prefer.

The main ingredient here is a common tin of sardines – a frugalista’s friend at only 59c a can from ALDI.  Sardines are a rich source of omega 3 and calcium, and are also low in mercury.

And I have found that this recipe improves the next day, so is perfect for lunch.  I really like my Japanese style lunchboxes that I found – perfect for small diet friendly meals.

A next day leftover lunch of pasta in a Japanese lunchbox container
A next day leftover lunch of pasta


300g bucatini or a thick pasta
1 tin of sardines (in springwater)
2 cloves of garlic
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (use fresh if available)
½ cup chopped wild fennel
½ lemon, squeezed, or a few tablespoons good quality vinegar
Olive oil


  1. Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling salted water.
  2. Crush or chop the garlic and fry in a tablespoon of olive oil. After a few minutes, add the tomatoes and continue to cook until soft. Add the turmeric, and continue to cook for a further two or three minutes.
  3. Flake the sardines with a fork, removing any bones, and then add to the fry pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving a little liquid. Add the fennell o the fry pan, and then add the hot pasta. Mix to combine adding additional cooking water from the pasta, if required, and serve.  Sprinkle with lemon juice as desired.
A bowl of wild fennel and sardine pasta
Ready to eat


Pasta $1
Sardines 59c
Garlic 20c
Tomatoes 60c (or free if you are lucky to have a friend with a vegie patch)
Turmeric 20c
Wild fennel free
Lemon 30c
Olive oil 25c

Total $3.09 or 77c a serve

344 calories a serve


    1. It does indeed grow wild. It is, I think, slightly different from the bulbous variety (but someone please correct me if I am wrong). There are a few around Belco if you know what they are and where to look. Also some in the Jerrabombera Wetlands. The biggest clump I have found is near Bunnings and The Good Guys in Fyshwick (not far from Dream Cuisine – you could pop in for a chocolate croissant after foraging).

  1. Ooh I love sardines too! And how they melt into a sauce and give everything such body. YUM. Also, your lunchbox is awesome.

  2. Simple and delicious. Like the fact that you pick up the fresh ingredients next to the roads in your area. The pictures are amazing. Thanks for sharing

  3. Love the idea that you can pick up fresh ingredients growing on the roads in your area. What a simple and delicious meal. Your pictures are amazing. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Inspiring and tasty! Reminded me that I was an urban forager long ago in San Francisco. While waiting for buses or walking I often found tall, wild fennel and would snap off the fresh seeds to chew. A sweet treat that I miss. Not much grows wild where I live now in San Diego.

    1. Yes, you were definitely a forager before your time! I am sure there are wild things growing near you, you probably don’t know what they are or where to look. I am only starting to discover wild foods in Canberra, and there is still a lot available that I don’t know about.

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