Dill is an annual aromatic herb with feathery bluish-green leaves that resemble delicate branches. It has a slight taste of lemon and caraway and has been used for centuries in both cooking and herbal applications.
The leaves of the plant are called dill weed and used in most recipes, bring flavor to fish, cheeses, and vegetables. The seed of the dill plant is popular in curry mixtures, bread, and flavoring vinegar. The most famous culinary use of dill is in pickling. Who hasn’t had a crunchy dill pickle at least one in their life?
Ideal Location for growing Dill.
Dill grows best in full sun planted in sandy or fertile well-drained soil. It also thrives in slightly acidic soil ranging from 5.8 to 6.5 ph. Enriching your soil with compost will yield the best growth.
Dill is a hardy annual which means it can tolerate a bit of frost. Grow dill in groups of three or more plants, so they will grow to support each other in windier areas of the garden. Dill will bloom in the late summer. Bright clusters of yellow umbels sprout at the top of the plant. If you leave the flowers on the stems to ripen, they will seed freely in the garden, returning year after year.
Dill plants are easy to grow from seed. Select a sheltered sunny spot in the garden, sowing the seeds early in the spring season, and cover lightly with soil. Like many herbs, dill has a long taproot so does not fare well during transplanting after the seedling stage. You may, however, grow seeds indoors in small pots planting out when the seedlings have their second set of true leaves.
Space seedlings to 9 inches apart in small groups or rows 12inches apart. Water them well during dry periods, either once or twice per week. Add an organic general-purpose fertilizer mid-season. Leaves will be ready for harvesting in 40-60 days.
Varieties of Dill
There are several varieties of dill. Select the variety based on your planned use of the plant. Larger varieties of dill include Elephant Dill, which grows 3-4 feet tall and flowers later in the season extending the harvest. Mammoth Dill grows to 3 feet. Both the leaves and seeds are good for culinary uses.
The dwarf varieties include Fernleaf and Bouquet. Fernleaf Dill is just 18 inches high and is a good candidate to grow in containers. Bouquet dill grows between 1-2 feet tall with a heavenly aroma and good form. Both produce a good crop for culinary gardens while being suitable for a smaller garden.
Where to Buy Dill Seeds and Plants
Dill plants and seeds can be found at most garden nurseries or home improvement centers. Most often you will find Fernleaf or Bouquet Dill in local shops beginning in late winter or early spring. More interesting or specialty dill varieties can be purchased at online retailers such as Burpee Gardening or CooksGarden.com. If you prefer growing a larger number of plants, dill seeds are normally the best choice. If you need just a few dill plants, you may find it easier to buy young plants.
Cooking with Dill
Fresh dill leaves are excellent when paired with fish and seafood. Chop and sprinkle fresh leaves in green or potato salads. Include chopped dill in omelet or egg scrambles. Dill can be added to the final cooking stages of soups just before serving to bring out the heavenly scent.
In Europe, dill is very popular for flavoring root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes. Dill flavored butter can be added to almost any steamed vegetable dish will good results. A dressing made with dill, sour cream (or yogurt), and mustard makes an excellent salad dressing or topping for steamed asparagus.
Dill seeds can be dried and added to fresh breads. This is especially popular with rye bread. They can be whipped into salad dressings and used to make flavored vinegars. The popular dill pickles of New York use both the leaves and seeds for flavoring. Dill is a popular spice in India for flavoring curries.
For more great cooking ideas, visit Recipes To Use Up a Bunch of Dill from one of our favorite websites – The Kitchn.
Harvest dill leaves as required throughout the season. Keep freshly harvested dill leaves sealed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You may also place cut stems in a glass where they will keep for a day or two. The dill seeds should be harvested when the seed heads are fullest even when a few flowers are in still in bloom. Cut the entire head from the plant and allow to dry before harvesting the seeds.
Freezing dill is the preferred method of preserving the dill leaves. Freeze the stems whole in a plastic bag and cut off stems as needed. Another option is to chop the leaves and freeze them with a little water in ice cube trays.
Drying dill is still an option. However, some of the flavor is lost. To dry, spread dill in a single layer on a drying rack or cheese cloth then set them in a cool, dry and dark place for a few days. Good results have also been achieved by drying dill in the microwave. Sealed in an air tight container, dried dill will keep up to one year.
Dill Uses in Herbal Medicine and Health Benefits
Dill has a calming effect on the digestive system. The essential oils found in dill seed are a popular remedy for flatulence and colic in children. The dill seed also has antispasmodic effects and can be used to treat bloating and cramps. The seeds are typical ground to release the natural oils before adding them to herbal remedies.
Dill is a highly fragrant herb with an unmistakable scent in the garden. The flowers add a pretty display later in the season and are a good choice to attract butterflies such as the black swallowtail.
Both the dill weed and seed are popular in many types of culinary dishes. From flavoring fish and eggs to seasoning curries, dill is a must-have for the culinary herb garden.