Scientific Name: Anethum graveolens
Dill is a slender annual or biennial with one upright hollow stem and matt grey-green, finely divided feathery leaves, with a strong parsley-caraway smell.
Dill bears tiny yellow-green flowers in flattened umbels in summer, followed by aromatic dark brown seed.
Dill is a hardy cool-weather crop that prefers partial shade or full sun, rich well-drained soil and it must be protected from cold winds. It is quick-growing and will flower prematurely if overcrowded, planted in summer, or planted in poor, dry soil.
Dill must not be planted near fennel as they hybridize with each other. However, when planted near cabbage, Dill is a good companion plant — it attracts beneficial insects that prey on the aphids that are found on the cabbages.
The ancient Egyptians recorded Dill as a soothing medicine and the Greeks used it to take away hiccups. Dill has been an important medicinal herb in the Middle-East since biblical times. It was considered so valuable that it was used for tax payment. During the Middle Ages Dill was prized as protection against witchcraft and burned to clear thunderclouds. Early settlers took Dill to the Americas, and today Dill can be found growing around the world.
Harvesting and parts used
The young leaves can be gathered any time during the growing season to use fresh. Pick the flowering tops just as the fruits begin to form. To collect seeds, wait after the flowering heads turn brown, cut down and hang the whole plant upside down over a cloth or tray to catch the seed, or encase the flower heads in a paper bag. (not a plastic bag as the seeds will rot)
Dill is a culinary herb and seeds, leaves and flowering tops can be used. The leaves lose their flavour when cooked for any length of time, so it is best to use them raw or add to a dish minutes before serving.
Finely chopped Dill leaves can be used as a garnish or added to soups, potato salads, cucumber, cream cheese, eggs, fish and grilled meats.
Chopped dill leaves for garnish on a dish of boiled potatoes or in sour cream sauces, will lend a flavour of anise.
Small sprigs wrapped in foil and sealed, will keep well for several weeks in the fridge. Alternatively — chop leaves, add a little water and freeze in ice cubes.
Dill seed can be used whole, or ground, in soups, fish dishes, pickles, cabbage, in butter pats, apple pies, cakes and bread. The dried seed can also be served as a digestive after a rich meal.
Dill is a pickling spice — add a teaspoonful of dried seed or one fresh Dill flower head per jar to pickled gherkins, cucumbers and cauliflower. You can also make your own Dill vinegar by packing a jar full of fresh Dill and covering with warm apple cider vinegar. Label clearly. Seal and allow to mature.
Dill is a valuable remedy for insomnia, but is more well known as a digestive aid for problems like hiccups, stomach cramps and flatulence. It is an important ingredient in babies "Gripe Water" and if lactating mothers take Dill regularly they will increase their milk production.
Dill has mild diuretic properties and can be added to cough, cold and flu remedies.
Chewing the seeds will improve bad breath (halitosis).
Dill is useful in cooking for a salt-free diet, crushed and mixed with summer savoury, thyme, celery and parsley.
Dill seed can be crushed and infused (tea) and used as a nail-strengthening bath.
I would like to recommend the following method of the herbal tea infusion as written by Margie Frayne in her book Help yourself to Health — A guide for home health using healing herbs and good nutrition, 2005:
Method: ½ teaspoon of crushed dill seeds to 1 cup boiling water
Place the seed in a container with a lid. Pour the boiling (just of the boil) water over the seed. Cover and stand for 5-15 minutes.
Strain. Add sugar or honey if necessary.
Take 1 tablespoon per adult or 1 teaspoon for babies.