By Heidi Lewis
“Wave your fronds in the air, wave ’em like you just don’t care!” DJ Dillyweed and Sista Fenny Fennel face off in Battle of the Weeds. Yes, both of these flava-flavorful aromatics are vying for a spot in our West Coast TakeHome cases this week, but only one will be champion.
Dill and Fennel are notorious herbs, lauded for their medicinal talents. Both are carminatives (they can allay digestive disorders) and can be found in the cure “gripe water” for colicky babies. [Judges: Hmmm—you have to give cred to any herb that can make babies feel better. Round One = tie score.]
Their stage names may be Dill and Fennel, but their mothers call them Anethum graveolens and Foeniculum vulgare (shhh, don’t tell anyone). Both are in the family of aromatic plants that have hollow stems, commonly known as umbellifers. Technically weeds, they’re exceptionally easy to grow, self-seeding to a fault, and attract butterflies. [Judges: Love, love, love butterflies! Round Two = tie score.]
In the kitchen, both herbs add flavor to beat the band. Dill is used mostly for its dried seed in pickling and northern European cuisine, or fresh in sauces and salad dressings. It “blends the distinctive flavor of its seed with pleasant green, fresh notes,” says kitchen scientist Harold McGee. Fennel, on the other hand, is more anise- or licorice-like. When not grown for its seed, the farmer directs the plant’s energy into the bulb. Fennel bulb is a versatile, mild veggie that is superb sautéed or grilled in Mediterranean dishes or raw in salads—or prepared like they do in downtown Turin with an anchovy sauce.
[Judges: Thank you for playing, Dill, but we’re in the mood for Fennel starring in the Veggie Party recipe on the back of the flyer. Round Three: Fennel from the Alba All-Stars is the winner of this week’s TakeHome Battle of the Weeds!]
Preparation: Cut off branches and trim the hard bottom of the bulb—julienne or chop bulb. Trim fronds and use whole or chop fine.
Storage: Refrigerate in a plastic bag. Will keep for 5–7 days. Wash before use.