Saturday, August 13, 2011


Wild fennel.
When I saw a ChefShop newsletter touting wild fennel pollen, 17 grams for $19.89, as a “well-kept seasoning secret” with “incredible flavor that stands on its own.” I said, “I gotta try some of that”. So I went to the edge of the garden, where the weeds range tall, and picked a bunch of flowering bracts of wild fennel.

I pan-fried pork chops with slivers of garlic, put them on plates and, rubbing the fennel flowers between finger and thumb, I sprinkled pollen over the chops. So aromatic! A fresh, sweet fragrance, very nice with pork.

Pork chops sprinkled with fennel pollen.
My fennel pollen, bright yellow dust, is free for the taking, completely seasonal. I will pick some more flowers and allow them to dry in the sun, then shake out the pollen to save for later use. I bet it will be good with salmon. With cheese dip. With vegetables. Maybe sprinkled on pizza.

Or, with prices like that, perhaps I should package and sell it.

Wild fennel doesn’t produce a fleshy bulbous stem like cultivated Florence fennel. The bulb of cultivated fennel, which you can buy at the grocery store, is used raw or cooked.

Wild fennel flowers.
Wild fennel grows on dry slopes in Mediterranean lands and in California. A perennial, it sends up green fronds in the springtime. They grow to tall, rangy stems and, by the end of summer, bear yellow flowers, bracts of immature seeds. The seeds eventually turn brown and fall away and the  plant dies back in the winter.

In Spain the first feathery shoots are foraged to be added to potaje, a stew with chickpeas, wheat berries and sausage. Snippets of the fronds are also sprinkled on spring vegetables such as fava beans, peas and artichokes. 

Once the stalks grow tall and fibrous, they are not fit to eat. But they make a wonderful addition to a grilling fire, producing an aromatic smoke that adds a subtle flavor to sea bass or bream.

Fennel pollen, like yellow dust.
When the stalks make yellow flowers, it’s time to collect the pollen. Before  I was turned on to fennel pollen, I collected the green seeds to use in cooking. I especially like them in late-summer tomato sauce to serve with meatballs or pork. I sun-dry the seeds for use year-round.

Come October, the flower heads of wild fennel are used as seasoning for home-cured olives. See that recipe here.

Pan-fried pork chops with garlic and fennel pollen.


  1. In your first photo, what is the plant behind the yellow flowers? That is not fennel is it, the tallest ones at the top, 7-12 o'clock? I live in Málaga and am trying to figure out the plants that grow wild around here. Some are so aromatic, they must be edible. I need a spaniard to take me on a walk. I love your site.

  2. Anonymous: Behind the fennel is broom (genista or retama), very beautiful when in bloom. I have a little book, Common Wildflowers of Spain by Austen Colwell that helps to identify local flora. See if it is still in print at

  3. hi,
    i was hoping you could help.
    im opening a kitchen in barcelona and i would love to use wild ingredients from the area. i realize your in the south,
    bus i was hoping you know anyone like the "miles ivering" of spain or any foragers i could get in touch with?

    1. You can check out They have wild fennel pollen for sale there year round.

  4. Buster: Sorry I don't know someone to refer you to. Certainly, more and more chefs are exploring foraged ingredients. Perhaps some of the readers out there have some suggestions?

  5. thanks anyway. . . :

  6. Going for it among the wild, brilliant growth next to a local stream, close to Granada - my second week here !


    1. Ana: Happy foraging. This is the season to gather wild fennel pollen.