Fennel grows wild all over Italy.
It’s a common sight in many of the country’s regional cuisines: You’ll find the bulb, fronds, seeds and even the pollen used as ingredients in dishes, and many families eat thin slices of the bulb as a digestive aid between courses or at the end of a large meal. It’s no wonder finocchiona—either the aged, firm style made by Coro or its fresher, crumbly version, sbriciolona—is a staple cured meat. Legend has it—or maybe call it a tall tale—that a thief wandering a market in Prato, a town in Tuscany, stole a salami from a street hawker, stashing it in a field of wild fennel (another common sight in Italy). The salami supposedly absorbed the fennel’s heady taste before the thief retrieved it and discovered a winning combination.