Aromatic Culinary Herb Called the Dill
Anethum graveolens syn. Peucedanum graveolens
Also, Known As:
- American Dill
- Common Dill
- Danish Dill
- European Dill
- Garden Dill
The familiar culinary plant known as the dill is an annual aromatic herb, which is about thirty inches tall – seventy-five centimeters in height. The herb bears feathery leaves on an erect stem that is hollow inside. When in bloom, the herb bears a large number of yellow colored flowers in umbels on the stem.
The dill has been traditionally associated with superstitious beliefs in Europe, and hanging a bunch of dill herbs over the door was supposed to protect one against witches and sorcery in the olden days. While the herb is no longer associated with such superstitious beliefs these days, it is still used to a great degree in the manufacture of herbal medications and in culinary dishes in many cuisines around the world.
The herb is reputed to be one of the oldest known culinary herbs around. Even the ancient Egyptians were believed to have used the dill, and the herb finds mention in Egyptian writing that is five millennia old. The current name of this culinary and medicinal herb comes from the old Norse word dilla, from which dill is derived, this word means “to lull.” The name was given due to the use of dill seed oil in herbal potions to relieve the colicky stomachs of infants in the olden days; the children were lulled away from the discomfort. The use of this herbal dill water or dill gripe water, to bring soothing relief from digestive discomfort still persists to this day and some families still use the remedy. Dill seed oil is also employed on a commercial basis in scenting soaps and fragrances.
These days, the main use of the dill herb is in the role of a culinary herb in many European cuisines. The sweetly pungent and sharp tasting herb is used as a seasoning in the preparation of many dishes, the fresh dill leaves imbue a wonderful flavor to green salads and to fish dishes. Dill pickle which is a German preserve now familiar to the American palate is also eaten in many homes. The dill seeds are also added while preparing dill pickles and it has a characteristic flavor. All kinds of vegetables and meat stews, various sauces, potato dishes, and some bread are flavored using dill seeds. Dill leaves are often dried and used as a seasoning in different dishes around the year. Dried dill leaves are often packaged and sold by commercial herb dealers as dill weed – this product can be found in most grocery stores. Dill gives much more flavor when it is used fresh.
Plant Parts Used:
Seeds, essential oil, leaves.
Herbal Remedy Use:
Traditionally, herbal remedies prepared from dill were used in treating disorders affecting the stomach, to gain relief from excessive abdominal gas and to calm down digestive disorders – the dill remedy was highly valued in these roles and some herbalists still prescribe the dill for treating such problems. The essential oil extracted from dill is used as a remedy for relief painful intestinal spasms and muscular cramps and as an aid to alleviate colic in children. Dill seeds are often chewed as a means of alleviating bad breath. The herb is mildly diuretic and is considered a useful addition to other herbal remedies meant for the treatment of a chronic cough as well as the common cold, and flu. Dill can also be used along with anti-spasmodic herbs like cramp bark, used for menstrual pain, similar to the way the caraway herb is utilized. Lactation is increased by dill and all nursing mothers can help avoid the chances of colic in suckling babies by regular use of the dill remedy.
Remedies made from the dill are also excellent for the treatment of abdominal flatulence in children and it also alleviates the colic that sometimes accompanies the condition. Dill is the ideal herbal remedy for the treatment of colic in affected children and infants – mild and effective as well as tasting good. Nursing mothers benefit from taking remedies made from the dill as the herb stimulates the flow of milk and increases lactation. Halitosis can be alleviated by chewing the seeds on a long-term basis – the seeds must be chewed on a regular basis to ensure the complete alleviation of bad breath in the long term.
Other Medical Use
- Altitude sickness
Dill is used as a seasoning herb in many culinary preparations. In fact, the leaves and seed heads, as well as the seeds are considered to be essential ingredients in pickling cucumbers. The herb adds flavor and fragrance to such preserves.
Dill is also used in the preparation of many dishes. Fresh dill leaves which are finely chopped or powdered dried dill are commonly used in seasoning many kinds of seafood dishes. Dill goes well especially with fish like salmon; it is a preferred seasoning in vegetable and meat soups, to flavor salads and salad dressings. Dill is also used in poultry and egg dishes, to flavor meats and stews, as a seasoning in casseroles. Dill is used for flavoring many vegetable dishes, particularly peas and beans and dishes made from the cabbage family of plants. It is also used as a herb butter, to spice up sour cream, in many sauces and cream cheese, and in various dips.
The ideal way to add fresh dill during cooking is to put it into the cooking dish only at the last minute – this ensures that the maximum flavor and aroma are brought out in the dish. Freshly plucked dill leaves can be added to vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil to flavor.
The yellow flower clusters of the dill can be included in fresh floral bouquets and displays.
Habitat and Growing Dill:
The dill grows in the wild along the coastal Mediterranean region and probably originated from this area. Dill is also found growing in the wild in open range land in some parts of southern Russia, as well as in southern and central Asia. These days, dill is cultivated in many countries for use as a culinary herb – most of this cultivation occurs in England and Germany and in the North American countries.
The herb can tolerate different kinds of soils and dill plants generally tolerate organic soils well, however, the herb will grow the best in deep and well-drained soils composed mostly of fertile and sandy loam that has been fertilized using organic compost or farmyard manure. Dill tends to grow optimally in soils that have a pH range from 5.5 to 6.5, thus, it grows best in slightly acidic soils and may not grow well under alkaline conditions.
Dill plants are best grown in sites with good exposure to full sunlight daily. Growing plants need to be watered on a regular basis during the dry season. The dill is susceptible to wind damage as the top-heavy hollow stalks borne down with seeds can easily be knocked over by strong winds. This is the reason for the need to plant dill in sites that can protect the growing herbs from the strong gusts.
The dill grows best in cold climates and should ideally be cultivated in areas with cool average temperatures year round. Stored seeds are sown directly in the permanent sites or in the garden as soon as spring arrives; this sowing is carried out even in places where the average ambient night temperature in early spring is as low as -4°C (25°F) around the site. Dill seeds are normally sown in the permanent site and buried six mm or a quarter inch deep in the soil of the seedbed to ensure optimal germination rate. Seeds are sown in permanent sites because the dill herb is not easy to transplant due to the fact that the fragile and long taproot is very easily damaged. Once sown, the dill seeds normally take about two weeks to germinate. As dill is a hardy cold climate plant, the young seedlings that emerge late in the spring are able to tolerate the last spring frosts very well and do not need to be protected. When cultivating dill, it is advisable to thin or space the growing plants in a patch fifteen cm – six inches – to ensure maximum growth of all the plants. It is common practice to do a second planting in July; this ensures that a constant supply of fresh leaves is available for use year round.
Dill plants produce a floral bloom as soon as the weather turns hot, the production of the flower is triggered by the hot weather and one effect of flowering is that the growth of new leaves is suppressed.
The dill is a very hardy herb and is usually not affected by pest and plant diseases. Dill plants are vulnerable to some diseases when young and may require some protection. Mildew can be prevented from developing on the seed heads of the growing dill plants by a few precautionary measures in the growth stage. It is best not to use overhead sprinklers while the growing plants are more than 60 cm – two feet tall. Mature plants reproduce themselves and self-sow freely, requiring no stimulation from cultivators.
For optimal growth, dill plants grown indoors will need a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight daily. If artificial lighting is used, this requirement for lighting goes to twelve hours of bright artificial over the site every day. To ensure maximum growth of the plants, a high nitrate fertilizer must be used on the soil and seedbed. The stem of all plants grown indoors must only be trimmed about ten cm – four inches – at any session to avoid damaging the plant – over the trimming of the growing herbs can kill the plants. To ensure that each individual plant can put forth new growth easily, a minimum of ten cm – four inches – of the stem at the base must be left after a trimming session. Dill plants that are grown indoors normally have a useful life of approximately three months on average.
If dill plants are to be grown in containers, the vessels of choice are twelve inch – thirty cm – plant pots. Dill can be grown on standard potting mixtures available at many garden stores; this mixture can be enriched with organic compost or even aged farmyard manure to ensure maximum nutrient availability to the growing plants. Dill seeds can be planted into the pots kept out of doors in early spring, to ensure germination and maximum use of space, every single container can be used for three dill plants. Once the seeds have been sown in the containers, the pots can be placed in a site with good daily exposure to sunlight. A little organic fertilizer can also be used on each of the containers once every three weeks or so to ensure a good supply of nutrients to the growing plants. There may be a need to bury a slim stake in each pot to help the flower stalks of growing plants from breaking off – this may be avoided by growing a lower dwarf variety of dill instead.
Dill seeds contain up to 5% volatile oil (about half of which is carvone), flavonoids, coumarins, xanthones, and triterpenes.
Dill herbal Infusion: This remedy can be prepared by steeping one to two teaspoonfuls of slightly crushed dill seeds in a cup of boiling water. The seeds must be allowed to infuse into the boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes before the solution is cooled and strained. This remedy is an effective treatment for flatulence and a cup taken before meal time can help prevent the occurrence of flatulence.
Dill tincture: The herbal tincture made from the dill can be taken at a dose of 1- 2 ml three times daily for the treatment of a wide variety of digestive complaints and related disorders.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions:
The herb has some side effects. The dill can induce photo-dermatitis in some people – this rash like problem often becomes apparent on the person’s skin on exposure to sunlight following the consumption of dill.
Harvesting of Dill:
Dill seeds are usually collected when they have completely ripened on the stem – the seeds become brown when fully ripe. The harvested seeds are spread out on a mat and sun-dried before storage. Seeds must not be dried under artificial heat as some of the flavors can be lost under strong unnatural lighting.
The dill is an annual herb. Though dill can withstand late frosts, it is best to sow dill seeds after the danger of the last frosts of the year has passed. Even mature dill plants will require protection from strong winds as gusts of wind can topple the stem. Dill is best grown on soils that are medium rich in nutrient content. Dill plants need to be watered on a frequent basis, there may also be a need to pinch off the growing floral heads from time to time unless the plants are being grown for seeds. Dill is a hardy plant and matures rapidly; it also has a good germination rate. Seeds can be sown once every six weeks to ensure a constant supply of fresh leaves during the year. There is no need to stimulate dill plants and dill self-sows freely for the next year’s crop of plants.
The harvest of leaves from growing plants can be started before the plants begin to flower in the summer. Dill plants are typically fifteen cm – six inches – tall when this harvesting of the leaves is started. The leaves can be harvested from the start of summer to early in the fall of that year.
The fresh dill leaves have the best flavor when used in dishes, dried leaves may not have the same potent aroma of freshly plucked leaves. Fresh dill leaves can be plucked in the morning, just after the dew on the plants has dried out – these leaves can be used to season various dishes cooked that day.
The flavor of dill can be preserved quite well by freezing or refrigeration. The freshly plucked dill leaves can be kept in an air-tight container and frozen in the refrigerator. This frozen herb can be thawed and used as and when required in the preparation of dishes.
Dried dill can be prepared by cutting off whole stems inclusive of the foliage and then hang this upside down in the sun for drying. Once the herb has dried in sunlight, the leaves can be stripped from the stems, and the dried herb can then be stored in an air-tight container and used as and when needed in culinary preparations.
Once the flowers fully open up following a bloom, the seed heads can be collected to make pickles, this collection must, however, be carried out before the seeds have had a chance to ripen fully. The seed heads can be cut off from the plants along with a small portion of the attached stem, and then enclosed inside a paper bag for drying. Once the seed heads in the bag become brown, they can be stored in an airtight container and used in the preparation of dill pickle.
Dried dill seeds can be prepared by harvesting the ripened seed heads of the dill; these can be cut off from the plant along with a small piece of the stem. Once they are obtained, they are dried inside a paper bag. The paper bags containing the seed heads are then hung upside down on wires by the stems. They are hung and dried in a cool and airy site. Once dried, the seeds are stored in an air-tight container and use as and when needed.
Potato Salad with Dill:
- 16 to 20 new potatoes
- 1/2 cup oil and vinegar dressing
- 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/4 cup chives or onions, minced
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
- 1/2 cup fresh dill weed or 1/4 cup dried
Wash new potatoes and cook until just underdone. Drain, and cool 5 minutes.
With two sharp knives, slash the potatoes into halves and quarters. Pour dressing over them, sprinkle with salt and toss with garlic and chives. Marinate at room temperature until completely cooled, tossing occasionally.
Toss again, this time with mayonnaise and mustard, just before serving, and sprinkle liberally with dill.
Makes 6 to 8 portions.