dill plants in my mother’s front yard

dill or fennel?
I have always liked dill very much, as a spice. I like to include it in the marinade of pickled cucumbers… and with rice, and other foods. But have not been a special fan of Fennel wheich is very popular here, and included in salads, and sometimes pickled itself. After posting these pictures, I got some mails as well as comments, which raised the possibility that maybe what I had photographed was fennel, and not dill. I wasn’t sure, and started searching for information on the two plants. My daughter, Rivka, who has been a chef in an earlier incarnation of her professional life, suggested that the plant was fennel, and I give a lot of credit to her opinion.

But reading botanical texts, I found it difficult to be sure which plant this was. I saw pictures of both, and they look very much the same, though they come from different families of plants. And strangely enough, they have very similar names in hebrew. The dill is ‘shamir’ and the fennel is ‘shumar’. The leaves of the dill are supposed to be a little more delicate than that of the fennel, and the seeds are a bit thinner. Eventually, I found a reference to the possibility of confusion between the two plants. The solution, I read, was to eat leaves from the two plants. The leaves of fennel have a liquorice taste. I went back to visit my mother again, and snipped two leaves from the plant… washed them and tasted them. They had a slightly spicy taste… but not that of liquorice. I believe that what I have photographed here is in fact, dill. But I’m still not 100% sure, if just because some people have questioned its identity.


33 responses to “Dill

  1. Something hit me and touched my heart. I just whispered. She heard I am sure. I love dill and I use in all my cookings… And how beautiful photographs… Thank you dear Shimon. With my love, nia

  2. I really like the way the light has caught the plant in the second photo setting it off against the wall in shadow. A nice photograph of an interesting herb Shimon.

  3. The closeup brings out its beauty.

  4. Lovely photos. a lovely sentiment for upcoming Mother’s Day on Sunday 🙂

  5. I’m fond of both Dill and Fennel plants – so feathery and light, and tasty too!

    • You’re comment got me to study the nature of the plant. I added something to the post, which you are welcome to read, and discovered quie a bit about the two plants. Thank you, Claire.

  6. Love, love love dill: it’s one of my favorites in cooking; how lovely these photographs are and how precious that these plants are in your mother’s garden!

    • Thank you very much, Catherine… Yes, my mother is 101 years old, and I am still learning new things from her… it makes me very grateful. I added something to the post which might interest you.

      • Rivka is probably right; the taste test would certainly determine if it’s shamir or shumar! I hope your mother is well and love that she is sharing her wisdom with her appreciative son. Peace to her days and to yours.

  7. I, too, enjoy going into the garden and looking at all the growing plants. It is especially rewarding when I can go into the garden and pick something that then becomes part of our meal. You have inspired me to go and see if I can buy a dill plant to put in our garden! Thank you, Shimon!

    • What I like best about dill, is its influence on the taste of cucumbers… but I do like it in other foods too. And I agree with you, it’s great picking something out of the garden to add to the dinner plate. Thanks, Ruth.

  8. … beautiful image … especially the first one, Shimon … I think I’ll have some dill pickles right now 🙂

  9. I sometimes plant herbs for the scent they give out when I brush past them in my garden. This morning, I can almost smell the dill.

  10. I’m not very good at botanics in terms of gardening, but I think the taste test is the winner for me. My scant knowledge is just that, scant, but Dill does have a distinct flavour. I did read something many years ago about Dill and Fennel growing close together, they would cross-pollinate and neutralise each other and you end up with fen-dill. I still haven’t read much more about it though.
    And I have to add how fascinating about the Hebrew names being so similar.

    • Yes, I also read about the cross polination… which is very interesting since they’re not even in the same family of plants. It would be interesting to taste the results.

  11. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I love, absolutely LOVE dill. I don’t use many herbs because I’m not clever with what goes with what, but dill I put with mashed potatoes. That’s the only use I can think for it!

    But it SO much reminds me of visiting my Polish grandmother – my mother’s mother, and enjoying the food she created, with strong elements of dill.

    Loved this post 🙂

  12. I love dill and it is always perfect as accompaniment to the pasta dish I make with smoked salmon. 😉

  13. I absolutely agree that fennel–while favoured in French cuisine and by many gourmands–is not a flavour I enjoy, simply because it is over-powering. Dill, on the other hand, is wonderful with garlic and especially good with fish, and can be moderated. And yes, isn’t is wonderful with pickled ANYTHING! (smile).

    • Yes, I feel the same way, Lance. Prefer the dill, and like the way it looks. I enjoy the warmth too, so this season is very pleasant for me… and just the right time for pickled anything, as you say. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Lovely photos, Shimon …. and they got me to thinking and remembering both herb seeds which are used in India as well, We use dill in some of our curries but fennel or सौंफ “saunf” is a favorite breath freshner. . Invariably after a feast, a small tray of fennel seeds is passed around and each person takes a few and munches them to take away the after taste of the heavy curries, I got quite used to the slightly liquorice flavor which wasn’t as strong as the cardamoms, which were also often offered.

    The cardamom seeds burned the roof of one’s mouth and I used to swear I tasted them for days afterwards.

    My memories of dill are my (Canadian) mother’s pickles, which I loved. Big fat cucumbers. Isn’t it quite miraculous what wonderful plants grow all around us, all over the world? Every one of them has something to offer …. sometimes just beauty for the eye and soul …. and sometimes the most delicious flavors for the tongue.

    • I guess I got used to alcoholic drinks for breath freshening… don’t think I ever wanted the liquorice taste… except when I was very young, and enjoyed the occasional candy. But like your mother, I used to add dill to the pickles, and sometimes to rice, which had just a bit of spice added. Thank you very much for your comment, Nikki

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