Gourmet Food Source
Coming from the same family as Caraway, the French rather confusingly also call it wild cumin. There are two types of fennel; the tall herb and the bulbous variety, which is eaten as a vegetable and the seeds, are obtained from both.
The seeds can be easily obtained from your own plants, just before cutting them for the winter you will see a mass of yellow pollen on the flowering heads which can be shaken off for use. The Italians are renowned for their use of fennel pollen obtained from the wild plant and they can fetch a high price in the UK.
I love fennel seeds and use them abundantly. They are an excellent accompaniment to lemon, pork, fish and chicken. Sprinkle the seeds over a joint of pork covered with sliced lemons prior to roasting and sit back and enjoy the glorious aromas. Fennel seeds can be crushed in a pestle and mortar with some rock salt, dried chilli and lemon zest then bound together with olive oil to make a simple salsa to pour over grilled fish or vegetables.
If you are fortunate enough to obtain some of the wild pollen from Tuscany then use it in moderation as it is deceptively strong and a small amount should keep you going for a few months. As with other spices look for seeds with a good green colour and avoid any with a lacklustre appearance.
Content and picture © Miles Collins