Fennel seeds are a popular spice across the globe and need no introduction. But in the past few years, chefs throughout the world are showing great interest in fennel pollens. These have been traditionally hand-picked from wild fennel plants by cooks in northern Italy (and more lately by cooks in California). What draws a stark contrast between fennel and fennel pollen is the high price tag of the latter, which is often triple the amount of the former. Nevertheless, it hasn't affected its growing popularity. It may be news to many, but it isn't just a fancy herb hogging some limelight. The list of its health boons is impressive. 

Its tiny size comes on its way to making it nutrient-rich. Nevertheless, the compounds in fennel pollen can improve our well-being. Terpenes are prominent among these substances. Likewise, limonene which gives fennel pollen its citrus flavour, is known for its significant anticancer properties. Because of its reputation as a fat burner, limonene might also be helpful for people who are trying to reduce weight. Anethole gives it the fragrance resembling licorice. Anethole works excellent as an appetite suppressant. Thus, this compound can aid one in consuming fewer calories and shedding pounds. 

Diverse use of fennel pollen

The enthusiasts of culinary art would agree that it's always about the quality of the ingredients and the technique used to cook, which truly makes a dish delicious. Thus, including exotic spices is the trusted approach to enhance the flavour of even the most basic foods. Meanwhile, because all spices are extracted from plant roots, bark, flowers, seeds, and fruits, most of them have been demonstrated to improve consumers' health. 

Fennel pollen is no exception. Many consents that it's the plant's flavour-dense component. No wonder it has been profusely used in Italian and Tuscan cooking for many years. Think of it as a seasoning agent for bread and pesto, as well as an aroma infusing ingredients in fish, salads and roasted meats.

Exotic fennel pollen, Image Credit: christinasspice.org

Entry to the American food scene

Fennel pollen is known as the spice of angels in Tuscany. Before it became a popular spice in the US in the 1990s, it was a relatively unknown condiment for many years. Culinary author Faith Willinger stayed in Tuscany for almost three decades. She introduced fennel pollen to the American culinary scene. In no time, chefs went gaga over this exotic spice. In fact, the celebrity chef Mario Batali, was head over heels with fennel pollen. This love made it one of the sought-after condiments in premium restaurant pantries. Now it falls under the most expensive spices in the world. Fennel pollen is labour- and time-intensive to harvest, just like saffron and vanilla.

An exquisite aromatic profile

As the name suggests, it has a dominant fennel fragrance. The flavour is rich,  intricate and resembles citrus and licorice tones. Since it is intense, it can easily overpower all other flavours in a dish. Hence, you should start with a smaller amount and master the art of its fair use. Ideally,  a pinch is enough. Experts advise using fennel pollen in the same manner as a herb. To guarantee that you optimise the taste in the completed dish, add it as the finishing touch.

One may use it for desserts, sweets, or even savoury dishes. Remember, it's a delicate spice and must be employed on the lines of saffron and sumac.