Organic Fennel Pollen - 1 oz
Organic Fennel Pollen - 1 oz
Fennel Pollen, Foeniculum vulgare, is a member of the parsley family (Apiaceae family) and is closely related to anise, asafoetida, caraway, chervil, coriander, culantro, dill, lovage and parsley. Sometimes misspelled as Fennell Pollen. Fennel Pollen is the most potent form of fennel, and in our book it definitely classifies as being exotic. Even for those who've heard of it have a hard time finding it, and if you can find it, it's expensive. The fennel plant is native to central Italy's Tuscany region.
Fennel pollen and fennel seed both come from the same plant. This is one of only four plants that produces both an herb and a spice, with the other three being cilantro and coriander seed; dill weed and dill seed; fenugreek leaves and fenugreek seeds. While both Fennel Pollen and fennel seed come from the same plant, their uses and flavors widely vary.
Small and granular, Fennel Pollen has a beautiful deep, goldish green color. No matter what you use it on, it adds a mysterious taste. It isn't quite like fennel seed or anise seed, and it's not exactly curry-like, but it will bring to mind each of these. The thing that makes Chefs refer to this as "Culinary Fairy Dust" is how Fennel Pollen adds another flavor dimension imparting a full, rich, savory flavor to cooked foods which is sometimes described as umami.
The genus name Foeniculum is Latin for "little hay" and is thought to refer to the aroma of fennel. The genus name is also the source of the name of fennel in many European languages (including German "Fenchel", Italian "finocchio" and Portuguese "funcho").
Fennel is cultivated in Italy and on specialty farms in California. Settlers from Liguria (a crescent-shaped region in northwest Italy that's known as the Italian Riviera) first brought it to the Bay Area about 150 years ago, and today it also grows wild on hillsides, roadsides and in vacant lots throughout the state of California.
The fairly recent rise of the popularity of fennel pollen in the US has been linked back to a food writer who lived in Italy for many years. In 1990, she introduced it to a few chefs at a little Italian butcher shop in New York City. One of these chefs was Mario Batali, who at the time was working at the Italian restaurant Rocco's. "You sprinkle a tiny dusting on something hot, and it gives you this heady fennel perfume," Batali explains. "It's amazing." These various chefs immediately added fennel pollen enhanced foods to their menus.
Fennel has tall hollow stems that give rise to small yellow flowers. These flowers form clusters that are structures called umbels. The pollen is collected from the flower once the flower has reached peak bloom, and it's then dried and screened to separate most of the stems from the fennel plant. This process leaves the most flavorful parts of the fennel plant, the anthers and pollen, for use as a spice.
The harvesting of fennel pollen is labor-intensive, and like saffron, this means even a tiny amount is expensive. There seems to be no method to speed up the gathering process. Every flower yields only about a quarter teaspoon. Harvesting the pollen isn't that difficult - it's the drying that is tedious, requiring a deft touch one only learns through years of experience.
Our top grade Organic Fennel Pollen is grown on a small organic farm on the central coast of California.
We were thrilled to find this organic farmer. While modern agricultural practices of the larger industrial farms favor maximizing efficiencies and profits, they've erased much of nature's diversity and subsequently significant amounts of nutrients from the soil and from our modern diets. But, this small organic farm is changing all of that. They select their crops for their nutritional, cultural and culinary value to humans. Even more importantly, they choose them to maximize the benefit of the soil and land they're planted in. The result is some of the finest fennel pollen in the world (we don't think that we're exaggerating here).
Just a dash of pollen can transform an average dish into supreme cuisine. The real secret to using fennel pollen is to understand that a little bit goes a long way!
A tiny amount of fennel pollen adds surprisingly sweet, bright flashes of savory flavor to seafood, poultry, pork, vegetables, soups and stews. You'll find yourself using this spice more frequently, as the delightful burst of flavor is intoxicating. Some of my favorite uses for Fennel Pollen are adding it to roasted chicken, pork roast, quinoa, salads, salmon, soups, tabbouleh and roasted vegetables.
If you haven't used this spice before, we recommend that you go with less, as even a pinch can overpower a dish. We also recommend treating this like an herb, where you either add it towards the end of the cooking process or add it to the dish right before serving to preserve its flavor (this method is preferred by most chefs).
Fennel pollen has a strong, sweet flavor with the recognizable licorice zing of freshly ground anise or fennel seed with hints of hay, honey and citrus. The aroma is somewhat musty with deep floral notes.