Fennel pollen is to fennel as coriander is to cilantro. Though both come from the same plant, their flavors and uses vary widely.
Dating back to ancient Greece, fennel appeared numerous times in Greek mythology and was portrayed as a cure for all things digestive. Though most are familiar with fennel in its licorice-flavored seed form, there's another fennel product sweeping the market: fennel pollen.
Fennel pollen is described as "elusive," combining the flavors of honey, curry, anise and fennel with a deep, musty floral aroma. It's small and granular, like that of salt crystals, and has a beautiful deep, yellowish-green color.
Fennel pollen works well with any food--pork, veal, seafood, poultry, vegetables--as well as in sauces and oils. The pollen's distinct flavor is not as astringent as many herbs and spices and is a favorite of many chefs. Used primarily as a dry rub, fennel pollen is often mixed with other seasonings to enhance the natural flavor profiles of the item.
Executive Chef Bernard Guillas of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club in California is a huge proponent of fennel pollen--so much so, that he has developed his own line of rubs featuring the golden delight. He says he was introduced to it while he was in Australia in the mid '90s--the dish was whole roasted fennel-pollen-crusted barramundi with fresh clams and mussels.
"The flavor just exploded in my mouth, like something I had never experienced before," Guillas said.
Locally, fennel pollen is used at the Boise Centre by Executive Chef Robert Finley.
"It will be featured at this season's Chef and the Gourmet dinner for the Boise Philharmonic," said Finley. "It will be used as a dry rub for the farm-raised Tsar Nicoulai sturgeon, grown here in Hagerman. It's a great product that leaves guests wanting more."