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.
- 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!