Fennel pollen is native to the Mediterranean and is now grown in many parts of the world including China, India and in the US. Early Italian immigrants planted Fennel in California where the plant now grows wild throughout the state. Our top grade Fennel Pollen is grown in California and many chefs considered this the highest quality fennel pollen in the world. Sometimes misspelled as Fennell Pollen.
With a long culinary history in Northern Italian cuisine just a pinch of fennel pollen can make an average dish extraordinary! Fennel Pollen started gaining in popularity in this country in the 1990’s when it was introduced to Chef Mario Batali. “It’s amazing, ” Batali explains “You sprinkle a tiny dusting on something hot, and it gives you this heady fennel perfume.”
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. Fennel pollen has a musty, deep floral aroma while the flavor profile has the recognizable licorice zing of freshly ground anise or fennel seed with hints of hay, honey and citrus. But what makes this often described as “Culinary Fairy Dust” is how Fennel Pollen imparts a full, rich, savory flavor to cooked foods. Often described as umami that deep intensity and savoriness that top Chef’s are always in search of.
Fennel Pollen is sweet, pungent, and has all of the great qualities of fennel and then some. The flavor is similar to fennel seed only more intense. Just a dash of pollen can transform an average dish into supreme cuisine. Use to enhance seafood, poultry, pork, vegetables and soups.
Small and granular, Fennel Pollen has a beautiful deep, greenish gold color. Like saffron the harvesting of fennel pollen is labor intensive which means even the tiniest amount is expensive. Each flower only produces about one quarter of a teaspoon. While not terribly difficult to harvest the artistry comes from the drying process which takes years of experience to perfect.
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.
The real secret to using fennel pollen is to understand that a little bit goes a long way! If you’re not use to this spice 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 add it towards the end of the cooking process to preserve its flavor.
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