really fresh dill is to grow it yourself. Fortunately, dill is an easy
herb to grow, and once you discover the pleasures of growing your own,
you’ll never buy commercially prepared dill again. In this issue,
you’ll discover how to grow dill, and lots of uses for this refreshing
herb. Some of the recipes in this issue may be familiar, but I bet
you’ll find a few new ones, too!
Dill or dill weed, is a native of Southern Europe and Western Asia.
Dill grows wild in the Mediterranean countries and has escaped from
gardens in parts of North and South America. It was found among the
names of herbs used by Egyptian doctors 5,000 years ago and the remains
of the plant have been found in the ruins of Roman buildings in
It is mentioned in the Gospel of St. Matthew: It is suggested that
herbs were of sufficient value to be used as a tax payment-oh if that
were true today! :”Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for
ye pay tithe of mint and dill and cumin, and have omitted the weightier
matters of the law.”
It was once an important medicinal herb for treating coughs and
headaches, and an ingredient of ointments and for calming infants with
whooping cough. Dill is said to come from the Anglo-Saxon dylle meaning
to soothe or lull.
During the Middle Ages dill was prized as protection againsh
witchcraft. While magicians used it in their spells, lesser mortals
infused it in wine to enhance passion. Early settlers took dill to
North America, where it came to be known as the ”Meeting House Seed,”
because the children were given the seed to chew during long sermons to
keep them from feeling hungry.
Dill is an annual with a height of about 2-5 feet. Tiny yellow-green
flowers grow in flattened umbel clusters in the summer. The leaves are
aromatic, feathery green. Dill weed is what most recipes ask for, dill
leaf is the same thing.
In the Spring sow the seeds in succession for a good leaf crop. The
seeds are easy to handle, being a good size. Dill does not like being
transplanted, so choose the site carefully. Dill prefers well-drained,
fertile soil in full sun. Dill can be grown in containers, in a
sheltered corner with plenty of sun. However, it will need staking. The
art of growing it successfully is to keep cutting the plant for use in
the kitchen. That way you will promote new growth and keep the plant
reasonably compact. The drawback is that it will be fairly short-lived,
so you will have to do successive sowings in different pots to maintain
a good supply.
Anethum graveolens) Shop for Herb Seeds
Dill is one of the easiest herbs to grow and would make a great first
herb for someone who has never grown herbs before. You’ll find lots of
uses for both the fronds and the seeds in the kitchen. A sprig of dill
will perk up almost any soup, salad, or main dish. You can buy
transplants at your local garden center, but there is no need because
dill is easy to grow from seeds. You won’t even have to start them
indoors – just plant your dill seeds right in the garden where you want
them to grow.
When to Plant:
Dill likes to be planted in cool weather. In warm winter areas that
don’t experience a hard frost, you can plant dill in fall or winter. In
cooler areas, plant dill a week or two before your last hard frost.
After the first sowing, plant again every 10 days or so for a
When growing in containers, use a deep container to accommodate the
long roots, and remember that you will eventually have a plant that is
three feet tall. Plants grown in containers may require staking.
Here are a few suggestions to start you on your way to a healthy crop
Dill, like most herbs, loves to bask in the sun, but will tolerate
Dill grows up to 3 feet tall, so plant it in the back of your flower,
vegetable or herb garden.
Sow seeds close together. This will allow the plants, which blow over
easily to support each other.
Cover the seeds lightly, and allow a week or two for them to germinate.
For a continuous crop, sow repeatedly from mid spring to early summer.
Don’t plant near caraway, fennel or angelica.
Caterpillars are fond of dill, and can be handpicked if they become a
Harvesting and Preserving:
Dill is a lovely herb that adds a refreshing flavor to any recipe. Try
adding a little dill to a ho-hum recipe, and watch what happens. It’s
almost magic! This booklet starts with tips on growing, harvesting and
preserving dill, and then turns to cooking with dill. These are without
a doubt the best dill recipes you’ll ever taste!
The best way to use dill is fresh from the garden, so during the
growing season, cut your dill to use fresh as you need it. If not kept
cut, your dill will go to seed, so cut often until you are ready to
switch to seed production.
If you find that you have cut more than you can use, dry the excess in
the microwave. Spread the dill in a single layer on a paper towel and
microwave on high for 3 minutes. The result is beautiful and tasty –
much better than dried dill you buy in the grocery store. After
microwaving, remove and discard the hard stems, crumble the leaves, and
store in an airtight container protected from light.
Once seedheads begin to form, it’s time to stop cutting dill for fresh
use. Allow the seedheads to develop and dry completely, then cut them.
You’ll be able to remove the seeds easily with your fingers.
To brew a stomach-soothing tea, use two teaspoons of mashed seeds per
cup of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes. Drink up to three cups a
day. In a tincture, take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to three times a day. To
treat colic or gas in children under two, give small amounts of a weak
tea. Many herbalists recommend combining dill and fennel to ease colic
The taste of dill leaves resembles that of caraway, while the seeds are
pungent and aromatic. Freshly cut, chopped leaves enhance the flavor of
dips, herb butter, soups, salads, fish dishes, and salads. The seeds
are used in pickling and can also improve the taste of roasts, stews
and vegetables. Try grinding the seeds to use as a salt substitute.
Both the flowering heads and
Pick leaves fresh for eating at any time after the plant has reached
maturity. Although leaves can be dried, great care is needed and it is
better to concentrate on drying the seed for storage.
Put the flower head upside down in a paper bag and tie the top of the
bag. Put in a warm place for a week. The seeds should then separate
easily from the husk. Store in an airtight container. The seeds will
keep their flavor very well.
Dill is a culinary herb that improves the appetite and digestion. The
difference between dill leaf and dill seed lies in the degree of
pungency. There are occasions when the seed is better because of its
Dill doesn’t mean pickles but “dill pickles” is so common it seems like
one word. Don’t confine this versatile herb! A few sprigs work wonders
for potato salad and try the yellow flowers in green salads. It is used
as a flavoring for soup, lamb stews and grilled or broiled fish. It can
also add spiciness to rice dishes and be combined with white wine
vinegar to make tasty dill vinegar.
Dill leaf can be used generously in many dishes, as it enhances rather
than dominates the flavor of food.
For dill pickles, before it sets seed, add one flower head to a jar of
pickled gherkins, cucumbers or cauliflower for a flavor stronger than
dill leaves but fresher than seeds. Where a salt-free diet must be
followed, the seed, whole or ground, is a valuable replacement because
of its high mineral content.
Truly a great herb and certainly not a weed!