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Fennel Pollen


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My wife was recently in Florence for a few weeks and I asked her to bring me back a bit of fennel pollen, which would be about the only thing she could fit in her luggage (I know it's easy to obtain via mail order.) She couldn't find any. Not only that, she couldn't find anyone who even knew what she was talking about. She didn't hit all the markets, but she did a fairly thorough search, and asked all her friends.

Some qualifiers. My wife is not excactly a food enthusiast (Just my luck to find the one Italophile barely interested in food.)

But: she speaks fluent Italian and she knows Florence well. She's spent at least a month per year in Florence for over thirty years and has lived there for uninterrupted periods of up to two years. Also, she has many dear friends there, and, in one case, is so much a part of the family that she has a key to the house and her own room. This friend's cousin has a neighborhood trattoria. In other words, her Florence credentials are good enough that I have to believe that fennel pollen is not all that popular there, which comes as a surprise to me given that it's marketed as being from Tuscany.

Some theories. It's more popular in other regions and is not that popular in Florence. Or, traditionally people just gathered it themselves (e.g. for salumi) and it hasn't yet spread as a consumer product. Or, though used here and there in Tuscany, it's not all that common and it's been pretty much created for the American market.

Do any of these theories make sense?

-michael

"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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Ciao,

I haven't seen any here yet, or even heard of it in Italy yet. Not on menus or by chefs. Sorry! The stuff surely does grow every where though! I would also keep in mind that Tuscany isn't solely singled out in Florence, and I am aware that you know this! But, maybe it is more popular say in Sienna, or somewhere else???

Best of luck on a firm answer!

Ciao,

Ore

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Fennel pollen is quite HOT.. but hard to find.

I have a stash... and my fennel pollen pusher in the market is OUT!!! but his sister still has about 3 cups left!!!

I worked with DArio Cecchini when he first tried it, brought in by farmers from hte hills who were hand gathering it.. it hit big!

Dario uses it a lot... sent it to Mario Batali, via Faith Willinger I believe.. and that's that....

IT is not common as it is expensivve, but I am addicted...If I close my eyes and take a whiff... it is a little curry-like... star anise....it makes me dream!

Dario does a pork shoulder chop with a heavy dry rub-- sauteed and then deglazed with Vin Santo.. lightly salted at the end... BLISS

I know there is a California producer.. I haven't used it.. but if it is like most of the dried herbs.. commercially produced, the high heat kills off hte essential oils.

Next time have your wife call me!

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Thanks for the very interesting information. I thought it was more widely used in Italy, but it looks like it's just as new and obscure there (for most people) as it is in America, where food people have known about it but where it's still far from mainstream. Now I'm off to the hills of Tuscany to harvest some for myself! (I wish.)

-michael

"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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I heard it mentioned on Melinda Lee's Food Talk show (L.A. area) perhaps a year ago.

I grow a lot of fennel and it isn't difficult to knock the pollen off into a cloth-lined basket.

I get it on my sleeves all the time when I walk between the rows of plants.

I grow them for the seeds and the plants are perennial, after harvesting the last crop of seeds, the plants are just cut back to the base when the stalks die down in the winter. They are the first green shoots to emerge in the late winter.

I tried a couple of the recipes from the chef at Sugar Ranch in Visalia and they were okay but I didn't notice that the flavor was as extraordinary as had been touted. It occurred to me that they may be using the pollen from Florence or bulb-type fennel which I grow but in smaller amounts. I tried it and there was no appreciable difference.

I made a cream sauce using the fennel pollen which I used on scallops. I also made the chicken recipe.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I first tasted pollinea di finocchio at Alla Testere in Venice about 8 years ago, and it's my understanding that the most flavorful pollen comes from wild fennel. I gathered some in Sicily, but the plant also grows along the west coast (it's considered a noxious weed in California). I dug one out of the gravel under the freeway across the river from downtown Portland and have it growing in my yard. I've yet to maximize pollen production, but I can go out and shake a flower during the early summer and get a little.

jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 years later...

(bumping this topic up)

This is supposed to add new dimensions to one's cooking and it is sold widely now on the Internet ... Zingerman's sells it

teeny tiny golden pollen are taken off wild fennel plants as they begin to bloom in the Tuscan countryside, then sent to us, where we hand pack them in our little spice tubes. It looks like fluffy sand, colored yellow by the sun. As special and rare as it is, wild fennel pollen is surprisingly easy to use - mix it with a touch of sea salt and black pepper and sprinkle it on to chicken, firm-fleshed fish, potatoes or almost anything really before cooking. (It's the quintessential Tuscan ingredient for anything made with pork.) It's like fairy dust for food - it makes it sparkle with flavor.

It is rare and there in lies the problem: even in Italy his stuff is almost unknown. Even those who've heard of it have a hard time finding it. Even if you can find it, it's not inexpensive.

Anyone using fennel pollen in their cuisine? :rolleyes:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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since zingerman's is importing it from Tuscany.. I can't tell you what a magical essence it is.

I ALWAYS have it in my kitchen..

add it to my ragu, on grilled pork, chicken and fish.

if you could smell it... it knocks your socks off!

you imagine curry... licorice... anice.... a deep ancient scent.. that reaches into your inner soul!

when I teach my classes, the most important part is the tasting at the market here in Florence... we use all our senses.. and the difference with dried herbs and spices here is amazing!

The sicilian oregano is also a miracle! SWEET and fragrant.

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