What is Fennel Pollen, why is it so expensive, and why it’s worth it

fennel pollen knowledge base

Wild Fennel Pollen is one of those elusive exotic spices that makes you feel like you entered a secret club once you’ve heard about it. One day you didn’t even know it existed, the next day it’s everywhere. Fennel Pollen Ice Cream. Fennel Pollen Risotto. Fennel Pollen Pulled Pork. This spice is so versatile, it can be used on just about anything. Why? Because of it’s unique flavour and texture.

Regency Fennel Pollen1

Fennel Pollen comes from the flowers of the fennel plant. Fennel is easy to grow at home, and gathering fennel pollen is also not too difficult. But the yield is very low. It comes from the very middle of the fennel flower, and you can gather about a gram at a time. This low yield is the reason why Fennel powder is quite pricey. Farming it is hard, and as a result most Fennel Pollen comes from Wild Fennel. Wild Fennel grows wild all over the West Coast, but this quality isn’t as great as in Tuscany, where Fennel Pollen has been cultivated for decades and is used heavily all over the country.

wild fennel flower head
Wild Fennel flower head. image: Rowena

Fennel Pollen is very different from Fennel Powder. Unlike the powder, which tastes simply as fennel seeds do, Fennel Pollen carries wonderful aromas and flavours of Liquorice, Anise, Citrus, Saffron, Pepper and other fruity hints too. Even a tiny pinch of the dried, uncooked fennel pollen will give you many different flavour sensations all in the span of half a minute. It’s no wonder that this has become an extremely trendy ingredient in high end restaurants.

Price though, is also comparatively high compared to other spices. Unlike many that can be sold by the kilo, Fennel Pollen is commonly sold by the ounce (around 28 grams), far less. It’s also used sparingly because of it’s high value, it gets dangerously near the price of Saffron!

Regency Fennel Pollen
Fennel Pollen: A closer look

Here’s a simple recipe using Fennel Pollen that you can try at home today. Strawberry Galettes, flavoured with fennel pollen. There’s no better way to bring out and understand it’s true flavour potential!

fennel pollen and strawberry galettes
image: Sue O’Bryan

Fennel Pollen and Strawberry Galettes

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

For the Pastry:
210g flour
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
150g softened butter, cut into pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons ice-cold water to reach desired texture

For the filling:
50g ground almonds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon flour
55g caster sugar
650g strawberries, hulled and halved if large
2 grams wild fennel pollen
5g sugar for dusting strawberries
Whipped cream, for serving

Cooking method

 

1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Mix the dry ingredients for the pastry together first: flour, sugar, and salt.
3. Then Add the butter and work with the fingers to a crumbly texture.
4. Mix the water in quickly until the dough just holds together. Start with 2 tablespoons first and add as necessary. In some cases 2 tablespoons itself may be just right.
5. Pat into a disk, wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
6. In the meantime, for the filling, mix together the almonds, flour, sugar and fennel pollen.
7. Roll out the chilled dough into a circle and set on a baking sheet. Spread the almond mixture over, leaving a 7.5 cm margin. This margin will be folded up to form the galette.
8. Toss the strawberries with the additional sugar until mixed well, then arrange on top.
9. Fold the edges of the galette dough up over the berries and bake until the crust is crisp and golden, will take around 20 to 25 minutes.
10. Serve warm with whipped cream.


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