Dill

By Tom Seymour | Jun 14, 2020
Photo by: Tom Seymour Dill weed is good when dried and/or frozen.

Easy to grow and self-seeds readily, dill is best known as a flavoring agent in dill pickles. But as with so many other common herbs, dill has much more going for it than just being an ingredient in pickle recipes.

Dill’s scientific name, Anethum graveolens, tells us much. Anethum was the name given to dill by the ancient Romans. In time, this was condensed to “anet” and then was changed to “anise.”

The King James Bible, in Matthew 23:23, mentions “anise,’ being used in tithes. Modern versions of the same passage have deleted “anise” and changed it to “dill.” Anise, or dill, was much in demand at the time and consequently had great value.

Dill contains a number of essential oils as well as vitamin C and the minerals magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

Dill was historically used to help with digestion, to increase appetite and to freshen breath. Dill oil is antibacterial and also helps dispel gas.

Something else in its favor, dill attracts beneficial insects, including ladybugs.

Also, dill excels as a flavoring and dill weed, that is, the feathery leaves, adds an exciting dimension to a number of recipes. I like to sprinkle dill on grilled or steamed summer squash. Salmon fillets benefit from a good sprinkling of dill before broiling. Steamed salmon comes alive when sprinkled with dill weed. Garden salads shine when sprinkled with fresh dill weed.

No matter how you use dill leaves, make sure to chop it first in order to release the flavor.

I like dill so much that I’ll pick a sprig and chew on it. Does it really help me to feel better? Well, our mind plays a big part in how we feel and if we think something helps us, then in many cases it truly does. But dill, with all it’s medicinal qualities, does in fact contribute to our well-being. I can’t think of anything more we could ask from a common, garden plant.

Dill Culture

Dill prefers rich soil and full sun. Since the seeds need light to germinate, rainy days can set it back. Despite that, it only takes a bit over two months from planting to develop seedheads. Space dill seeds at least 12 inches apart and lightly cover the seeds with fine soil and tamp the soil down so that rain cannot dislodge it.

In tending dill, do not allow the soil to completely dry because that will induce it to bold and go to seed early. Also, if you grow dill primarily for the foliage, remove the seedheads before they mature. That will tell the plant to grow more foliage.

Dill is prone to mildew problems. To circumvent this, space your pants far apart, at least twice the minimum 12-inch recommendation. Water in the morning, before the sun’s rays become too strong. This will discourage mildew.

Dill Varieties

Whereas once, dill varieties were limited, that is no longer the case. Today’s gardeners have a wide selection of dill types to choose from. Some dills grow to five feet tall, while others come in dwarf form and are even suitable for container growing. Amounts of essential oils vary from one type to another, too, so it pays to research this before choosing which type of dill is suitable for your garden.

Bouquet, Long Island and Mammoth are all tall varieties and are probably the most common forms sold. These have good flavor and produce copious amounts of seed. If you choose one of these varieties, remember that they can grow to four to five feet, so plant them behind shorter plants.

Those searching for shorter varieties or types suitable for growing in containers, can choose from Fernleaf, a dwarf type, Ducat, a compact variety with a brighter color of green than others and Superdukat, a type that contains higher amounts of essential oils than other varieties.

For those who make more use of the foliage than the seeds, Delikat has thicker foliage than most dills.

Finally, Vierling dill is slow to bolt, making it an ideal choice for those who like to harvest the foliage throughout the season.

Dill Storage

While the seeds are fine when stored in a paper bag, the foliage can either be dried by hanging clumps in an airy, well-ventilated room. Or, you can freeze dill leaves. This is my chosen method, since the frozen leaves (they thaw immediately after being taken from the freezer) have a more pronounced dill flavor than the dried kind.

Just place sprigs of foliage in a Ziplock freezer bag, flatten and stick in the freezer. Frozen dill foliage remains useful up to one year after freezing.

If you enjoy dill, I suggest you grow some this year. It just may become one of your go-to herbs in the kitchen garden.

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