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Italians bake it au gratin, braise it, fry it in bread crumbs, put it in salads, soups and risottos, and use the seeds to flavour sausages. There are some unusual dishes combining fennel (or its cousin anise) with seafood.

They also enjoy wild fennel: finocchina or finocchietto; pasta con le sarde e finocchietto is a Sicilian classic, made with sardines, saffron, raisins and pine nuts.

Finocchio marino is rock samphire (crithmum maritimum). In Puglia they like to pickle it in vinegar for antipasti, or as a vegetable side dish.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Image by fragrantica