Getting to Know Dill is part of a monthly series here on FBC called The Spice Box. Primarily written by Michelle Peters Jones, these articles create a spice primer for new and experienced home cooks alike!
Scientific Name: Anethum graveolens
Summer is in full swing, and a lot of gardens are now producing their bounties of fruit, vegetables and herbs. Around this time of the year, my thoughts turn to canning and pickling, and dill is the perfect complement to pickles and preserves. Besides being a beautiful addition to your herb garden, this annual, self-seeding plant is surprisingly easy to grow and can be extensively used in your cooking and canning. Dill can be used both in its fresh form as well as its seeds. They are commonly distinguished as dill weed and dill seeds. The word 'dill' comes from the Norse word 'dilla' which means to lull or calm. Dill is native to Southern Europe, but is cultivated all over the world.
Flavour Profile of Dill
Fresh dill has an aromatic, sharp, tangy and a very gentle anise-like flavour. Many people describe it as 'fresh green' or 'bright.' It's a distinctive taste, not strong anise like fennel but milder. Dill seeds have a stronger, more concentrated fragrance similar to caraway or cumin, and are found in many pickling spice mixes. Dill is not a substitute for fennel, despite coming from a similar family of plants.
How to Grow Dill
Dill is an annual plant, and is best seeded straight into the garden in early summer. It starts to sprout in about 12 to 15 days. You can start harvesting your herbs in about 10 days after the plant starts to sprout. Dill bolts (or goes to flower and seed) in hot conditions, so keep thinning it, based on your requirements. If you want the feathery herb, then keep pinching off the flowers as they grow. I have used dill flowers and flower pods straight in pickles and salads as well. Water frequently.
Do not grow your dill next to fennel, carrots or parsley, as it can cross-pollinate.
Culinary Uses of Dill
Fresh dill is a lovely addition to summer salads, soups and stews. It can be used as a garnish, or as a vegetable, as in this delicious looking chickpea curry. It adds tons of herby flavour to these crab cakes and orzo salad. Dill is commonly used in Scandinavian countries to flavour gravlax and smoked salmon. Cucumber dill pickles are a popular condiment all over the world, and a lot of families have their own 'secret' recipes. I also like these pickled green beans that use dill. Freshly chopped dill adds a delicate green, tangy note to a lot of dishes, including this dilly pork burger, herbed quinoa flatbreads, and these dill, beet and turkey wraps. Dill can be used as a primary flavour, or as a garnish and is particularly used in Eastern and Southern European as well as Scandinavian cuisine, like I mentioned previously.
Dill is perfect with fish and white meats and is one of the primary ingredients in dips and sauces. The best way to use dill is fresh, but freeze-dried dill keeps its flavour longer than dried dill.
Dill seeds are commonly used in pickling, but are also used in flatbreads and in Scandinavian-style breads and cakes.
Non-Culinary and Health Benefits of Dill
Dill is known for its health properties. Dill is particularly recommended for lactating mothers, and to calm the digestive system. Dill water is given to babies to reduce wind and encourage burping. It's a good source of vitamin A. An essential oil can be extracted from dill, and is known for its anti-bacterial properties. Dill oil is also used in the manufacture of chewing gums and candy.
And finally, did you know that in medieval Europe, dill seeds were used as a charm to ward off evil influences and witchcraft? Also, the most popular way of using dill, in the dill pickle, is a technique that is almost four hundred years old.
Check out some more of these delicious dill recipes from our members. What have you made with dill recently? Let us know in the comments.
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