Here in California, fennel is considered a weed, but it's a delicious one! Most people are familiar with the plant's bulb and seeds, but the flowers are also edible and the pollen is a magical, aromatic spice. If you're fortunate enough to live near wild fennel, take advantage of the opportunity to forage. As Hank Shaw writes:
High summer is a busy time if you are into fennel because the plant is setting seeds and is in full flower. Lots of people collect the dried seeds in late summer, but I prefer the fresh, green seeds, which are juicy and taste like anise candy. They are a powerful highlight in any dish, and unlike the dried seeds, they won't get stuck in your teeth.
As for the flowers, flowers mean pollen. Fennel pollen. It's a trendy ingredient now, and you can see it all over the place in high-end restaurants, especially Italian ones; fennel pollen is used a lot in Tuscany. The pollen is often frightfully expensive .... But, if you live in on the West Coast, you can gather fennel pollen yourself.
He goes on to describe a couple of methods of gathering fennel pollen and links to recipes like fennel pollen pasta dough, which we're dying to try. Those green fennel seeds sound intruguing, too!
Are you doing any foraging this summer?
• Read the article: Want to Try Fennel Pollen? Pick Your Own (The Atlantic)
Related: A Roundup Of Edible Flowers