Alibi V.17 No.29 • July 17-23, 2008 


Urban Foraging

Follow your nose.
Follow your nose.

Until last week, wild fennel was a great frustration to us. The stuff sprouts all around us in the early summer months—glorious, fragrant fennel, but with no bulb worth braising. After much discussion and consternation, we realized the answer to our woe was staring us in the nose: fennel pollen.

In Tuscan cuisine, the pollen of fennel flowers is referred to as "fairy dust" or "the spice of angels." It imparts a fragrant and flavorful vibe to anything on which you choose to sprinkle it. Dose your evening tea, rub the pollen on greased vegetables before grilling or, if you're really feeling randy, finish your roasted (non-wild) fennel bulbs with a spoonful of its own seed.

Harvesting the Angel Dust

1) Find some wild fennel.

2) Check out the flowers. If they're nice and yellow as above, then they're ripe for plunder. Snip a large stalk as far from the flower as you can—the more stem the better—and return home to string ’em up.

3) After snipping the individual stalks, make a little bouquet, tie the stems together at the bottom with twine or string, leaving enough rope to hang ’em.

4) Hang your bundle of joy inside a paper bag in a cool, dark place. Once a day, gently shake the bouquet against the bag to encourage the pollen out of the flowers. After about a week, you should have shaken out all the pollen you'll get. Carefully dump the contents of the bag onto a sheet of wax paper, and collect and store the pollen in a little glass jar.