Difference Between Dill and Fennel

Dill vs Fennel

Dill and fennel, being two very popularly used herbs in cooking a variety of dishes, tend to get confused for one another in terms of flavour and the general appearance. However, dill and fennel each possess unique characteristics that directly affect the nature of the dishes that they are used in.

What is Dill?

Dill (also known as Anethum graveolensm), the sole species of the genus Anethum, is a plant that features slender stems and long delicate leaves. Bearing flowers that are either white or yellow, dill produces long and thick seeds that are slightly curved with a longitudinally ridged surface. Both the dill leaves and seed are used in cooking in countries such as Germany, Sweden, Greece, Finland, Poland, Russia, Norway, the Baltic, and central Asia. Dill leaves, which are known for their aromatic nature, are used in both fresh and dry forms and are widely used in dishes such as soups, pickles and gravies while dill seeds that feature a similar flavour as caraway seeds are often used as a spice. Dill oil extracted from dill leaves, seeds, and stems of the plant is commonly used in the manufacturing of soaps and other cosmetics.  

What is Fennel?

Scientifically known as Foeniculum vulgare, fennel is a member of the family Apiaceae that is a hardy perennial plant indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean. An aromatic and highly flavourful herb with medicinal properties and culinary uses, fennel, along with anise, makes the primary ingredients of absinthe. Fennel features largely in the mythologies of the world, as well. In the Greek mythology, it was with the stalk of the fennel that Prometheus stole fire from the gods while it is said that it was from the Giant Fennel the wands of Dionysius and his followers had been made out of.

With hollow stems and leaves growing up to 40cm long, fennel is an erect, glaucous green plant that grows up to 2.5m. Fennel seeds are dry and long with longitudinal grooves. Both the leaves and seeds are used for medicinal and culinary purposes. Known for its carminative properties, fennel is used as treatment for hypertension, to improve eyesight, and also acts as a galactagogue to improve the milk supply of breastfeeding mothers.

Dried fennel seed, which is brown in colour and an aromatic spice, is widely used in the culinary traditions of countries such as India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East. The bulb of the fennel can be used as a vegetable, whereas the leaves are added to soups and curries and also eaten raw as salad.  

What is the difference between Dill and Fennel?

Although seemingly similar, dill and fennel are two different plants used for different purposes. The following differences help identify the two for their unique qualities and properties.

• Dill plant’s leaves and seeds are used for consumption. In the fennel plant, the leaves, the seed and even the bulb is used for culinary and medical purposes.

• Dill has therapeutic effects on the digestive system, controls infection, and has a diuretic effect. Fennel increases milk flow, relaxes spasms, and reduces inflammation.

• Fennel features a distinct black liquorice taste that is absent in dill.

• Fennel leaves are longer than dill leaves and taste distinctly different. However, both are used in cooking and garnishing purposes.