Herb Profiles: Dill
INTRODUCTION: Dill is an important culinary herb that is used for its seeds and leaves. Dill originally grew wild in Southern Europe thru Western Asia.
HISTORICAL FACTS: Extensively used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Remnants of the herb were found in Swiss Neolithic settlements dating back to 400BC. Its use spread to central Europe by medieval times. Dill is a popular culinary herb used in Greece, Scandinavia, Germany, Central Europe, Russia, the Balkans and Romania. References to the fresh herb can be found in the writings of Roman naturalists, English clergy and German literary works in the 11th century.
HORTICULTURAL FACTS: Dill is a member of the parsley family with light green feathery thread-like leaves. Looks a lot like fennel but only reaching 3’ in height. A hardy annual that is propagated from seed that thrives in almost any well drained soil. Likes warm areas of the garden away from open areas that become wind blown.
GROWING GUIDELINES: Likes full sun rather than partial shade. The fresh herb does not transplant well. Each plant has a single stem. It will self sow if the seedpods are not harvested.
FLOWERING FACTS: Flowers are very small in clusters atop stems of the herb plant.
Dill Culinary Use
CULINARY FACTS: All parts of the herb can be used for culinary purposes. Dill is not a common herb in Mediterranean cooking. It is known as a spice used in pickled cucumbers. In the United States we know them as dill pickles. The herb is key for the production of dill vinegar (a key cooking ingredient in some recipes). You will find it employed in many sour dishes, especially sauerkraut. You will find dill used in lemon sauces for fish, yogurt, sour cream, salad dressings, spinach dishes, chicken and lamb casseroles. Because of its delicate nature most chefs add the fresh herb to their hot recipes just prior to removing from the heat source.
HARVESTING TIPS: Dill leaves can be quick frozen for later use. The seeds are very tiny and therefore can be used as a condiment like pepper. The seed is the primary source of dill oil. When the leaves are dried they are sold as dill weed. The plants leaves are at the peak of flavor when the flowers are just opening. Use the fresh leaves as soon as you have clipped.
FLAVOR: Leaves have a distinctive flavor similar to parsley and fennel. Seeds have a bitter flavor similar to green leaf or caraway. Dried form of the herb’s leaves lack the vibrant flavor of the fresh leaves.
HOME GARDEN: Indoors/outdoors
Dill medicinal use
MEDICINAL FACTS: Dill water is given to fussy babies as a digestive aid and soothing medicine. Old wives tales recommend boiling dill in wine and then inhale the fumes to cure hiccups.