Put Some Pollen In Your Pocket And Some Spice In Your Life With Fennel

Fresh fennel seed

All you foodies out there: wake up and smell…the pollen? That’s right, there’s a new spice in town and it’s making news in places like Forbes and Bon Appetit magazine. Even though most of us attribute pollen to the thing that makes us miserable in the spring or an elementary school science lesson on what makes the flowers grow, having pollen in the pantry is becoming a trendy new thing. It’s a powerful spice that goes well with fish, meats, and or salads, adding an earthy note to those dishes. If you enjoy cooking with fennel already –either the bulb or fennel seed–experimenting with fennel pollen might be a fun new way to branch out and try a new culinary horizon!
What Is Fennel?
Fennel is classified under the perennial herbs and is a member of the Umbelliferae family. It’s a potently aromatic herb and has many uses in both medicine and cooking. The pollen itself is extracted from the umbrels of the flower and is the most potent form that fennel takes, in terms of the most amount of flavor. However, people have been using fennel in all its varieties since the beginning of time. Fennel tea (made from the bruised seeds) has been brewed for ages to help reduce flatulence and bloating that comes from digestive disorders. Additionally, the fennel bulb itself has large quantities of Vitamin C, which aids the immune system, and also lots of fiber, which can lower cholesterol levels in the body. So not only does fennel add a wonderful and rich flavor to dishes, it’s also incredibly good for you!
When Did Having Fennel Pollen In the Pantry Become Popular?
Surprisingly, fennel pollen has been growing in popularity since 1999 in America. (The Italians have had the jump on the fennel pollen game for awhile; Tuscany in particular. They use it in bread or pesto as a flavoring substance and in salads, meats, and fish.) What may not come as a surprise is that Americans discovered fennel pollen on a trip to Italy — a food writer named Peggy Knickerbocker raved about it upon a returning from Italy.
Your New Secret Ingredient
People who haven’t cooked with fennel before may find themselves hesitant to branch out into a new spice, especially one that’s strong in aroma. If you sniff the fennel by itself, it gives off a strong licorice smell — something not terribly appealing to most people. But don’t be scared! The best part of using fennel pollen is that the flavor doesn’t take over; instead, it works with and enhances the flavors of the ingredients around it. It works with any medium — fish, meat, poultry, vegetable — and drops into a more background role of simply bringing out the other flavors in the dish.
Where Do I Get Some?
If you’re looking to put some fennel pollen in the pantry at home, looking online is a great place to go if you live in a more remote area. If you live in a more populated area, like NYC, spice stores or specialty vendors may also have it for sale.
Try a new ingredient today and wow your family, dinner guests, and friends with your new secret culinary weapon!

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