Dill is actually two herbs in one - dill weed (the leaves) and dill seed (the fruit) with different seasons, chemical compositions and uses. Both parts have a long history of culinary & medicinal use from the “soothing medicine” of Egyptians to the Romans hanging and strewing the leaves in their banquet halls to counteract heavy food smells and to the Puritan Colonists who placed dill seed in their pockets to chew on so their stomachs wouldn’t rumble during long Sunday services! German brides even carried dill flowers in their bouquets in order to ensure a happy marriage and in the Victorian language of flowers, dill represents good cheer or irresistibility.
This fast growing member of the carrot family can grow from 1’-4’ depending on variety with a single taproot, branching hollow stems, aromatic & delicate looking blue-green feathery leaves that produce small yellow flowers in flat umbrels in mid-summer which in turn develop into flat, oval, dark brown whole fruits known as the “seeds.” Dill is an annual, which is sometimes grown as a biennial, that loves full sun, but does not like transplanting except when started in containers, so is best sown directly into the garden in clumps and staggered at two week intervals for a continuous supply. If you want dill for pickling, plant several dozen dill plants along with your cucumbers. Dill weed may be harvested early and often once the plants are at least 6 inches by snipping with scissors. Fresh dill can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days in a jar of water covered or may be frozen to preserve the flavor. To harvest dill seeds, cut the seed heads after the first seeds have turned brown and hang upside down to dry in a paper bag.
Each part of the plant can be used including the leaves, flower heads and dried seeds. Dill weed has a flavor mixture of anise, parsley and celery and adds savory sweetness to salads, vinegars, mayonnaise and sauces plus a refreshing tang to potatoes, omelets, carrots and cucumbers - no tea party would be complete without cucumber sandwiches with dill! It is best to use the leaves fresh rather than dried for the most flavor and add at the last minute when cooking as heat diminishes the flavor. The seeds have a more pungent taste like a combo of anise and caraway and are used for traditional dill pickles, breads, potato salad and even apple pie. The whole seeds add crunch, but may also be ground with salt to season dishes. Heating brings out the flavor, so add early in the cooking process or toast in a hot skillet before use.
Dill is rich in minerals, vitamin C and 1Tbs of the seeds contain more calcium than 1/3c of milk. Medicinally, dill seed promotes digestion and appetite and sweetens the breath plus dill seed tea has a reputation as a sleep aid which may explain its common name that comes from “dilla” meaning to lull into sleep.
Plant throughout the vegetable garden, except near carrots,
since dill flowers are attractive to beneficial insects
such as ladybugs and lacewings
plus are a food source
for butterfly larvae and caterpillars.
DILLED CHEESE BALL
1 c sliced almonds
1-8oz cream cheese
4Tbs crumbled bacon
1Tbs chopped green onion
1/2tsp dill weed
Toast almonds. Combine remaining, cover, & chill overnight. Form ball and roll in the toasted almonds.
CHEDDAR DILL SCONES
1tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
1/2c grated cheddar cheese
1Tbs chopped fresh dill
1/2c sour cream
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add cheddar cheese and dill. Combine egg and sour cream until well blended, then add to dry ingredients until they are moistened. Knead on floured surface until dough holds together. Divide dough in half, pat each half into a 6” circle ½ inch thick and cut into 6 wedges. Place on greased baking sheet, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 mins or until golden brown.
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."