There are a few choice ingredients we keep on hand for boosting the flavor of our favorite dishes—a bottle of colatura, a jar of concentrated Italian tomato paste, dried porcini mushrooms . . . but there is one secret spice in our pantry that adds depth and umami plus a dazzle of aromatic magic: Wild Fennel Pollen.
Wild Fennel Pollen—hand-harvested from the tiny yellow-green fennel flowers growing in the Tuscan countryside just before the plants go to seed—is milder yet more fragrant than fennel seed, with an intoxicating, crisp aroma of fresh fennel fronds and subtle notes of licorice and anise.
Don't take our word for it—the Wall Street Journal believes in the magic of fennel pollen too (WSJ writer Jane Black calls it "foodie fairy dust").
How to use
Just a touch of this fragrant spice will elevate any dish to something truly magical—sprinkle it over poached eggs for a transcendent breakfast, add a couple pinches to a simple marinara sauce, use to season Roasted New Potatoes with Fennel Pollen or make a flavorful rub for meats, fish & seafood with fennel pollen, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Don't stop at savory—fennel pollen is a stunning addition to sweet dishes. Try adding a teaspoon to scones studded with Italian sour cherries, make a fennel pollen-scented vanilla gelato topped with fresh berries or use as a garnish for a flourless chocolate torte.
About the producer
When the fennel flowers that blanket Tuscany are laden with pollen, Bruno Francioni and his foragers head out to carefully harvest the flowers by hand. Next, the fennel pollen is dried in a slow and painstaking process to ensure that none of the essential oils dissipate and lose their aroma. Signor Francioni knows it's ready when the pollen has a heady aroma of anise, golden-green color and crisp texture.