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Fennel and Dill – What’s The Difference

We grow both fennel and dill in our herb garden and friends asked why we ‘bother’ growing both as they thought they were pretty much the same. So this article is designed to look at difference in use and growing needs, but they are both equally useful!

fennel bulbs
Fennel bulbs are edible and can be thinly sliced and used in a gratin.
  1. Fennel is completely edible, the leaves, stem, seeds and bulb. The difference with dill is that the leaves and seeds are usually only eaten.
  2. Herb fennel leaves can be used in herbal tea to make a delicious deep liquorice flavour, dill has a taste profile which has notes of fennel, but is heavily flavored with a celery like, savory taste. You would not use dill in herbal teas, but it does go very well in stews.
  3. Both fennel and dill are perennial plants, but care must be taken to overwinter them in the UK
  4. Dill will grow to around 2 to 4 feet when it reaches maturity, fennel will grow to 3 to 5 feet in height and will require some form of support.
  5. Dried dill leaves are called dill weed and are very subtle in flavor. When fennel is dried it retains its flavor profile. Dill needs to be freeze dried to keep strength of flavor, but is best used fresh or in pickles.
  6. The bulb of fennel can be roasted, sauteed, barbecued or cooked in all manner of ways. Dill is much more common as a herb to add flavor and not as the main dish.
  7. Fennel is from the carrot family (Apiaceae) and dill is from the celery family. So although they immediately appear similar with their feathery foliage, they have differences of taste and aroma.
  8. Fennel contains, potassium, Vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Iron and Magnesium in high quantities, but it is its low cholesterol that makes it so popular as a heart healthy staple. Dill is rich in vitamin C, manganese, Iron and vitamin B9, however you will struggle to eat a portion. Dill is more of a garnish and when used in a dish you will only eat a small amount.
  9. If fennel bolts you can collect seeds to eat, if dill bolts you will be able to let it self seed.
  10. Both Fennel and Dill make excellent micro herbs! Packed with flavor in their tender leaves.
  11. The main difference between these two herbs are that dill is the perfect companion plant for cucumbers and broccoli, but should not be planted with carrots and tomatoes. Fennel is not a good companion plant as it is so dominant and will grow to fill any garden space. We grow it in raised beds close to our vegetables as it will encourage helpful insects to the garden. We struggle with aphids on our roses and the fennel we grow allows ladybirds a habitat to lay eggs and breed, ladybirds love to feast on aphids!
dill and the differences to fennel.
Dill is tasty when fresh, but does not dry well. Dill weed is a much weaker version of the fresh leaves.

Caution For Growing Dill and Fennel Together

Cross pollination is likely as they are so closely related. This does not result in a true plant and in fact gives a rather plain flavor with a disappointing taste profile. Sort of the worst of both worlds. So to avoid this happening be sure to plant them far enough apart.

We love to grow in pots and this helps to eliminate these sorts of issues.

hand and fennel leaves, long and feathery green leaves
I am about 5 foot five high and this fennel is at chest height at the moment, so make sure you plant this perennial in a suitable space!

What Next & Further Reading

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