HOW TO :: Harvesting Fennel Blossoms

It's your last chance to harvest late-blooming fennel blossoms, so if you haven't stocked up already or you've never tried before, now is the time. Now! 

Wild fennel looks very much like the fennel fronds you see in the grocery and at farmers markets, though wild fennel is not a bulbing variety. Instead, wild fennel grows tall and vigorous in the wild, offering up licorice-scented fronds nearly year-round that can be harvested and used as a fresh herb. These blossoms have a distinct fennel flavor without the sharpness that is found in both green and mature seeds.

To collect fennel blossoms, wait until the blossoms are in full bloom and open. Flower heads will be densely packed and bright yellow. Cut stems just below flower bunches—each stem will have a multitude of blossoms. Do not rinse them off! While fennel blossoms are often collected from roadsides and railroad tracks, rinsing them will remove some of the pollen that you’re trying to collect. To dry the blossoms, make a small bouquet and secure with a long piece of string or twine. When dry, pick off the blossoms with your fingertips. To do this, set up a clean workstation and, holding the stem in one hand, pull up on each individual blossom stem to release the flowers. You may also cut with a pair of scissors, being careful not to also cut the small stem. Store blossoms in a small glass jar in your spice cupboard, where they will keep for several months or longer.

Roasted Shiitakes with Fennel Blossoms

Roasted mushrooms are an easy and flavorful side dish any time of the year. Shiitakes are widely cultivated and available all year long. They don’t have much moisture, so they bake up to a chewy-crisp texture quickly. For this recipe, mushrooms are roasted until the stems just begin to brown. Fennel blossoms can be collected in summer and kept as a spice in the pantry. They impart a sweet fennel flavor and aroma to these mushrooms that is quite distinct, as well as phenomenally flavorful.

Serves 4

2 pounds shiitake mushrooms, roughly torn into pieces 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon fennel blossoms 3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 ̊F. Toss the mushrooms, salt, pepper, fennel blossoms, and oil in a large bowl, coating the mushrooms evenly. spread out on a sheet pan, in a single layer,

and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, tossing oc- casionally, until the mushrooms are shriveled and their stems are starting to crisp. They will have re- leased most of their moisture and shrunk in size. serve immediately or hold at room temperature until serving.

More Garden Recipes: Fennel blossoms are a great herb to add to pork or a white fish like halibut. a light sprinkle of blossoms will also add a complementary flavor to vegetable soups.