According to the WSJ - "Slightly sweet and ridiculously flavorful, a sprinkling of fennel pollen makes pure magic."
Fennel pollen comes from the fennel plant which is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. Just look at the top of a carrot and fennel plant and there's a resemblance. Fennel is a hardy, perennial herb with small yellow flowers that is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Primarily, fennel started in Italian cooking, but has since been naturalized to many parts of the world, in dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks, and now is very plentiful.
Its aniseed (black licorice) flavor comes from anethole, an aromatic compound also found in anise and star anise.
Fennel propagates well by seed, and is considered an invasive species and a weed in Australia and the United States. In western North America, fennel can be found from the coastal and inland wildland-urban line east into hill and mountain areas. Fennel, however, does not do well in desert habitats.
Fennel is widely cultivated and is used mainly for it's culinary benefits. Many parts of the fennel plant are used. Fennel bulbs are chopped and used in all kinds of salads and vegetable dishes. Fennel seeds are the primary flavor component in Italian Sausage. Fennel pollen, which is tedious and time-consuming to extract from the plant is used by chefs the world over.
In fact, the best chefs all agree there's no shortcuts to cooking, but mention fennel pollen and they may make an exception. That's because fennel pollen acts not just as a flavoring agent but as a flavor booster, instantly beefing up a dish's umami—that deep savoriness and intensity that chefs struggle mightily to develop.
The trick to fennel pollen is not to overuse it. A little really does go a long way, and even a gingerly pinch may be too much. So go slow, add with care, and use mostly towards the very end of cooking so as to preserve its flavor.
Go out into your garden and shake down your fennel patch right now. Who knew such treasure was lurking in the garden.
Try these recipe(s):
Fennel Pollen Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon Pollen Ranch Fennel Pollen
generous pinch salt
1 cup mayonnaise
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a blender or by hand if you like the texture.
Serve with vegetables as a dip, set aside for spread on crackers. This even goes very well with cheese, meat and cracker trays.
Goat Cheese with Fennel Pollen
1 lb soft goat cheese
1/2 tsp Pollen Ranch Fennel Pollen
1/8 tsp Ground Dried Lavender
Mix lavender and fennel pollen together and coat cheese evenly.
Wrap in plastic wrap and let flavors meld together for 3-4 days.
Enjoy on Baguettes or your favorite cracker.