We love fennel. Drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven it’s a lovely accompaniment to roasted chicken or pork. Topped with cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano, slowly cooked and you have a vegetable dish to win over any fennel skeptic. When fennel is raw, it’s crispy with a licoricy taste. Once cooked, the flavor is incredibly mellow.
For the last few years I’ve been hearing about another fennel product-fennel pollen. It’s not easy to find and when you can locate it, it’s fairly expensive. As saffron is pricey because it’s so labor intensive to harvest, so goes fennel pollen. I’ve seen it for sale in the Zingerman’s catalogue/website and as much as I wanted to try it, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend $30 for 45g. They import it from fennel growing in Tuscany. If you aren’t familiar with Zingerman’s, you should check it out! When I’m in the mood to treat myself or send a gift to a foodie, this is the place I go. They have all sorts of interesting food products and many times they are the first place in the US to sell them.
Incredible as it may seem, there’s still a fair amount of open land in my suburban neighborhood. There’s a farm operating down the road and a canyon behind my block and lo and behold, guess what’s growing there-wild fennel! I pass these giant plants as I’m walking around and sometimes I grab a stalk just to smell it’s fabulous aroma. A few days ago I noticed that there were little yellow flowers blooming all over the plants and I decided that it was time to try harvesting my own fennel pollen!
I grabbed a small bunch as I was walking by, came home, put it in a pitcher which I set on a paper towel and left it there to wait for the pollen to fall off. It’s starting to drop, but I immediately realized that I need to pick a lot more. Today I’m going back with clippers to get a much larger bunch. As I walk by my first little pile of fennel droppings, there’s an amazing fragrance wafting around.
I have done some reading on how it’s best to get the pollen off the plants and I may go with the suggestion of placing the plants upside down in a paper bag and shaking it. Zingerman’s describes it in their catalogue as “like fairy dust for food-it makes food sparkle.” I’m looking forward to creating a little magic with my harvest-maybe I’ll start with a pork roast. I’ll be back to let you know how it goes. Right now I’m off to snip a huge bunch!
I am grateful for my mother and sister flying across the country to visit me next week!
Be sure to check in with Diana at Creative Structures for more on Gratitude Friday.