WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. WILD FENNEL POLLEN. PART ONE.

 

 

HARVESTING WILD FENNEL POLLEN

Northern California smells good. Yes, I know I am making a broad sweeping statement–but it's true. Everytime I am out here, no matter the time of year, the thing that resonates is the smell. Sometimes, briny, smoky and woodsy, heavy with eucalyptus, pine and sage brush other times sweet with wild fennel and  dark summer fruits. Wild fennel grows everywhere in Northern  California; A beautiful weed feeding off fog and salt in the dry dusty soil and craggy rock along the  highways and oceans edge. Fennel pollen is used in many Mediterranean recipes.

 

Right now, it is in full bloom. Bright yellow clusters heavy with pollen. This year, the drought has given way to a particularly abundant crop. I fight the bees just a little for the flowers which I cut off in clusters. I cut only the ones fluffy with pollen, in the late afternoon after the sun has dried the residual morning dew. 

The pollen has buttery delicate fennel taste and slightly caramelized aroma.

 

 

 

PROCESS

 

- Cut the flower clusters in the late afternoon.

- Make sure they are dry, if not leave in the sun for an hour or so.

 - Process the pollen by rolling the flowers gently between my fingers over a large plate or sheet tray. Don't worry if some of the flowers fall  into the bowl. You will later sift out any big peices.

- Once you have processed all the flowers smooth the pollen out in a thin layer and leave somewhere out of the wind to completely dry.This can be an hour in the sun or overnight in indirect light. The fennel  flowers can become a bit sticky or a little wet during the rolling processes they release amy moisture or sap. 

- When dry sift through a  fine sieve into a bowl. Only the pollen will remain. During the drying process it will go from a bright turmeric yellow  to a more burnt turmeric.

 

I sifted mine twice through two different size sieves, I used a medium sieve for the first round and a fine sieve for the second round. Your sieve should sift out all the debris and from the pollen. If this is not the case, use a larger mesh sieve.

Store in a ball jar or a well sealed spice tin. This will last up to one year if completely dry.

 

If you are not fortunate enough to live on the West Coast where this grows abundantly wild, you may be able to find it at your local farmers market. It looks a lot like dill flower so ask the farmers. I spotted some at the Union Square green market yesterday. Or perhaps you have planted some in your garden and have let it go to flower?

Fennel pollen is also available at most spice markets and many food specialty shops.

 

Recipes to follow in part two.

My mind is dancing with ideas.

 

Thanks for the initial inspiration Samin!

xx

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE LUMMI ISLAND

A few weeks ago we headed to Lummi  Island off the coast of Seattle to teach a photography workshop. The premise was visual storytelling and reportage with a heavy dose of wild and gathered ingredients as our base for inspiration.It was our first workshop and we thank all those involved for their patience and inspiration. it was a lovely weekend, with students from the United States, Portugal and Dubai! It was completely pulled together and organized by Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle and Vanille. The spark to this this idea started a couple years ago  with a quick conversation with Aran and the timing finally seemed right!The stars aligned with all our schedules and we forged ahead. Aran was the perfect co-partner and host! She and local Seattle based photographer Charity Burgraff kept us well fed and all the pieces moving in unison. ( look for Charity's new book  Sea and Smoke a collaboration with Chef Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn out this October, it is gorgeous and SO very inspiring!) Charity thank you for so graciously sharing the island with us!

We were't sure what we would find for wild foods once we got to Lummi but luckily it was bountiful. We gathered rose hips and roses and herbs for the weekend from Riley Stark's Nettles Farm where some of the students stayed. He had one of the most fragrant and wild gardens I have been to in quite some time! there was something extraordinary about the way the scents hung in the crisp salty air. Riley's farm and all it's beauty will stay with us for some time. a day or so into the workshop we started brainstorming dinner plans and realized we could grab a couple chickens  from Riley who raises the most beautiful organic Poulet Bleu. We added some wild oregano, whole quince thyme, rose hips, fennel blossom, olives, and local salt from Jim Henken's shop Marine Area7 and voila, dinner was born. the chickens were braised then finished off in the oven.

 

Everything we made to eat that weekend was in some way seasoned with things we gathered from Jim's farm. We had a huge basket of gathered edibles that we kept returning to for a little snip of this or that.My favorite seasonings of the weekend were the fennel blossom, the wild oregano and the celery seed. we there together a salad on our last night that was mediterranean inspired but whole from the island.we used Riley's organic perfectly ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced onions from the farm, whole large caper berries,  crushed green olives, fennel blossom, celery seed,  wild purple oregano and blossom,local sea salt, a good dose of cold pressed super green olive oil, wild mint and tiny bit of wild mustard blossom.

 

I will try to recreate it soon and post a recipe. It was one of my favorite salads of summer.

 

The workshop itself was held at the beautiful Lummi Island home of Seattle based Photographer and shop keeper (Marine Area7). Thank you Jim for letting us take over your very special space! Jim not only went crabbing for us once but twice! We were really spoiled with those dinners!

Jim's house is filled with luminous light and as you can imagine being the proprietor of the new Seattle based shop Marine Area 7 it was filled with props and surfaces that were spot on. I was coveting my share of goods for sure! Jim, I am still dreaming about that smoked salmon you made so effortlessly in that beautiful smoker! If you haven’t checked out his shop which he runs with his wife you must do so!

 

We met up on our last day with Rob Gold, sous at the Willows Inn to do a little woods and beach gathering. We found black berries, sorrel, pine, German Chamomile, Rose hips and so much more! On the beach we gathered sea lettuces for our poached egg dish. We quickly blanched the seaweed and added pea blossoms mustard flower and dill and fennel fronds and put an egg on it, hit it with a drizzle of olive oil and some pine salt and breakfast was done. thank you Rob for letting us point all this e cameras at you!

At night we snuck away to The Willows where we drank dark  smokey house roasted tea and had amazing wine and local cheese. Next time We will return for a proper stay there! Thank you Blaine!

We left the island full, happy and exhausted! So glad to have met all of you involved. Keep pushing yourselves!

 

 

 

 

Tammy at Running with Tweezers pulled together the list below if everyone's work sites!

Thank you Tammy! I snagged it from your post. Check out everyone's work when you get a moment.

And huge thank you to Monique Baron photographer and assistant/tech extradorniaire for  filleting salmon and pulling together power points and for the Capture One tutorial.

xx

Below are a few of our favorite moments.

 

 

 

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where the wild things are no. 10. juniper pickled onions.

Strangely, I have been craving juniper this past year. It started late last Summer, upstate, with a series of wild cocktails and juniper stuffed trout. I have since experimented with a number of recipes and drinks, to which my friends can attest, as I have plied them with many a juniper tipped cocktail.  I had never really incorporated juniper into my cooking in the past but now, I don't think I could live without it!  It should really have come as no surprise to me that I would like it this much. I do, after all, love gin, that brilliant aromatic spirit, spiced with juniper and other aromatic herbs and spices. I discovered gin in my early twenties.(Right now my two favorites are Hendricks and Breuckelen  Gin.) Juniper smells both medicinal and like the darkest forest floor. It is very complex. I have many Juniper recipes to share but for now I will post my current obsession; juniper pickled onions! Once you try them, there is no turning back.

 

Juniper Pickled Onions 

 

 (I added a few shallots to this recipe)

3 cups Japanese Apple Cider vinegar

(you can use Bragg's Raw Cider Vinegar if you want, I used what I had on hand)

1 tablespoon dried Juniper berries

1/2 tablespoon crushed Juniper berries (crush with mortar and pestle)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon black pepper corns

3 tablespoons sugar

 

 To make the brine:

Add the spices and sugar to the 3 cups of vinegar

Heat to a boil in a non-reactive pot

Turn off and allow to steep for 20 minutes for the spices to infuse

In the mean time, thinly slice 2 medium  red onions

 

After 20 minutes, heat the brine to a slow simmer.

Divide the onions into thirds and drop into the brine for 20 seconds.

Remove after 20 seconds with a slotted spoon and set aside.

The onions will turn a brilliant pink.

When all the onions have been run through the brine, turn it off an allow it to cool.

When cool put the onions in a Weck or Ball jar or some other airtight storage container and pour the remaining brine over the onions.

The pickled onions will last for a couple of weeks in your refrigerator.