Ever searching for foods that both nourish and thrill us, we’ve added a buzzy supplement to our chia-and-flax rotation: bee pollen. Pollen is Enemy #1 come spring, but eaten in moderation, it's a nutrient-dense vegetarian protein source that some say can help build immunity. It holds its own in the flavor department, too: mild and slightly sweet, with a floral undertone and a soft, chalky texture.
To make the most of the habit, we turned to a trustworthy arbiter of good health and good taste: celebrated raw chef Sarma Melngailis. Her two New York City restaurants, One Lucky Duck and Pure Food and Wine, bring a creative spin to plant-based food and drink -- one where nutrition is just icing on the raw vegan cake. Sarma began consuming bee pollen as a supplement about 11 years ago, and now confesses to actually “craving” it (we hear that!). Read on to find out how she gets her fix -- and why you ought to do the same.
First thing’s first: How do you take your pollen?
I like it best sprinkled on top of a thick fruit shake, which I’ll eat with a spoon. It can also be blended into the shake itself -- something thick and creamy with banana or almond milk works well. Bee pollen also sticks to anything wet, so it works well with things like almond butter. Almond butter on sliced apples with bee pollen and some Himalayan pink salt -- now there’s a snack! [Ed. note: If you consume dairy, we love it on yogurt too.]
Do you notice a boost in energy when you consume it, or when you combine it with other foods?
It’s hard to know for sure, since I include a number of supplements in my diet, but I do like how I feel when I’m eating it -- and I really like the taste too! I most often sprinkle bee pollen, cacao nibs, and goji or golden berries on my shakes. I don’t know if the combination is better than each alone, but I like a lot of texture, and I feel like they complement each other.
You promote a raw vegan lifestyle. Should bee pollen be consumed raw, or could we use it in cooking or baking? And it’s not vegan, right? Why do you choose to use it anyway?
I definitely would not heat or bake with bee pollen! The heat would destroy many valuable enzymes and nutrients. It would probably be fine sprinkled on top of something warm, like oatmeal, but ideally not cooked itself. [Ed. note: We’ll go ahead and keep putting it on toast, then -- preferably with a smear of local honey.]
And, no, bee pollen is not vegan by definition -- but as with honey, many vegans consume it on a regular basis. From what I understand, beekeeping actually benefits both the environment and the bee population, but it’s definitely a sensitive issue. I’ve been yelled at and called a “bee hater” for having a dish on our menu that used raw honey! Strict definitions don’t work for me, but I certainly respect those that live by them. Personally, I see the vegan lifestyle as more of an evolution, and I’d rather focus my efforts on more damaging parts of the food industry.
Have you tried bee pollen? What’s your favorite way to eat it?