Trying to describe something that has made such an impact on our cooking without getting too flowery is a challenge! Besides flowers of the fennel plant is where this elegant seasoning comes from, so flowery speech seems appropriate. This seasoning could well be the most successful one to choose for jazzing up a dish. Just a few sprinkles of this aromatic seasoning can take ordinary to extraordinary! It’s flavor has been described as having components of honey, anise, lemon, pepper, and even some say, curry, and since fennel seed is an ingredient with most curries, that is a natural sensory association.
Here is a excerpt from an article written in Saveur Magazine that helps us better describe what we have called its fairy dusting impact on food. Peggy Knickerbocker wrote, “If angels sprinkled a spice from their wings, this would be it.” It takes many fennel flowers to yield even an ounce of this “dust” and thankfully someone is willing to do the harvesting. In some ways it is like harvesting saffron, both done by hand and from flowers, both a crop from Italy, and both carry an appropriate price tag.
We have often thought about the acres of wild fennel we have seen growing across the state of Oregon. If someone wanted to take the time, we believe there is a market for Oregon wild foraged fennel pollen.
For now we will stick to cooking. Here are some ways to incorporate this seasoning. Meats-chicken, turkey, pork, beef and lamb–all have received raves when we used pollen as a rub. Potatoes take to fennel pollen well and we’ve used it with warm EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) for a drizzle over other vegetables too. Beyond that, we have had success pairing it with cheeses, especially goat cheese, of cheese fillings for tortellini or ravioli. Dill and lemon are natural with fennel so consider adding fennel in some of of those recipes. We are working on another spice blend of our own, including fennel pollen— so coming soon, Flavors of Northern Italy.
We hope we’ve inspired you to find (forage or purchase) and use this ingredient–even if it is just to sprinkle on your eggs or oatmeal in the morning, it is sure to please.
Picture from the internet!