The ancient Greeks called the food and drink of the gods’ ambrosia. Brought to Olympus by doves, ambrosia was reserved only for divine beings. While us mere mortals might not have access to such delicacies, we do have something pretty close: fennel pollen. Once described by food writer Peggy Knickerbocker for Saveur as “the spice that Angels sprinkle from their wings,” fennel pollen has become the spice du jour in culinary and foodie circles. But use of fennel pollen is not just for James Beard award winners. The spice’s aromatic, powerful, and most importantly, versatile properties make it an essential for the home cook and definitely one of the best spices to buy.
Fennel pollen is the most potent form of the perennial herb, fennel, with the maximum amount of flavor. The fennel plant is part of the Umbelliferae family, and is highly aromatic with a variety of culinary and medicinal uses. Those traits come through in the spice as well.
Amazingly, you can use fennel pollen in basically anything. The spice deepens the flavor of whatever food it is added to and makes the dish more nuanced and complex. Cooking with fennel pollen is definitely a flavor booster.
In the Italian countryside of Tuscany, fennel pollen is sometimes used as a flavoring in bread and pesto.
Max Falkowitz at Serious Eats, who once wrote that fennel pollen “tastes like pure summer joy,” likes to use fennel pollen on pork, chicken, and sausage. You can also use fennel pollen in salads, soups, roasted vegetables, roasted meats, fish, and most grains. Sarah Kate Gillingham over at The Kitchn swears by use of fennel pollen as a secret ingredient to baking muffins, fruit pies, and breads.
The most important thing to remember in your use of fennel pollen is that a little goes a long way. A little pinch and you will add incredible flavor to any dish.
In addition to the delicious benefits of fennel, there are also health benefits to eating the fennel plant, pollen, and seed. The herbs contain unique anti-oxidants, essential oils, vitamins, phyto-sterols and many other plant derived nutrient substances, which help equip our body to fight against germs and toxins and boost the immune system.
The fennel bulb has high amounts of Vitamin C, which helps to support your immune system. In addition, the bulb is rich is fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels.
Use bruised fennel seed to make fennel tea as a way to reduce bloating caused by digestive disorders. This carminative has been around since ancient times.