Your Secret Weapon to Grilling Success: Fennel Pollen


San Francisco Chronicle food writer Peggy Knickerbocker once described fennel pollen as “the spice angels sprinkle on their wings.” Back then, more than a decade ago, fennel pollen—yes, the pretty yellow dust that falls from fennel when it flowers—primarily was found in Italy. These days it’s a rather trendy ingredient, popping up on the menus of high-end restaurants. According to James Beard nominee Hank Shaw, who wrote about gathering his own fennel pollen in The Atlantic, “it has a beguiling anise flavor that is unlike that of the rest of the plant. The pollen tastes warmer and rounder than either the seeds or the bulb.”

Translation: fennel pollen is a magical ingredient that can elevate your cooking—and grilling—from good to superstar quality.

Pollen Ranch Spices founder David Rebb Firman, who read that article by Knickerbocker all those years ago, became the first to collect wild-crafted fennel pollen in the United States. He knew a thing or two about pollen collection—a trick he used to make crops more fruitful—and he knew just where to find wild fennel.

Pollen Ranch Spices fennel pollen is always fresh, pure and high-quality, because it’s picked at the height of bloom. And it’s extremely versatile. Use it as a dry rub on meats before roasting, sautéing or grilling, or sprinkle it on your favorite fish with a little olive oil. You can also use it in place of saffron to sass up your next pasta dish—or add fennel pollen to the dough itself, as Shaw did.

In addition to fennel pollen, Pollen Ranch Spices offers blends created by renowned Chef Bernard Guillas. Central Market carries three Chef Bernard Blends: Hog Heaven, for poultry and pork; M~Ocean, for fish and seafood; and Little Devil, for Creole or Cajun dishes. Each blend features carefully selected ingredients—some available only to chefs—that complement the inherent differences of the ingredients. Also noteworthy: Pollen Ranch Spices is the only producer of dill pollen. One sprinkle on a salmon fillet and you’ll toss your old dill weed and dill powder for good.

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