Simply The Best Herbs-October

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“Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.”  ~Helen Morgenthau Fox

 

I have loved learning more about the herbs I grow in my garden.  Some are native plants, and some are culinary herbs from around the world.  But all have a wonderful history and amazing uses I had never considered.  The next in the series has been a prolific grower in my zone 5B garden.  I am talking about Dill (Anethum graveolens) which is part of the Apiaceae family IMG_7430(or Umbelliferae), commonly known as carrot or parsley family.  

It is either a perennial or annual herb depending on where you live.  It is supposed to be an annual here, but in one of my raised beds it grows to mammoth heights as it comes back every year.  I love the look of this plant as it grows, and the flowers (pictured above) are stunning as they grow large and in masses of pure delight for pollinators and Swallowtail butterflies.

I have been featuring herbs this year in my series, Simply The Best as I link in with Diana@Elephant’s Eye on False Bay for her meme, Dozen for Diana.  Check out this unique meme where you feature one favorite plant in your garden monthly.

 

 

Name

Dill is also known as also known as Lao coriander, and is the sole species of the genus Anethum.  It is native to southern Russia, western Africa and the Mediterranean area.

Its name comes from the old Norse word “dilla” meaning “to lull” because of its ability to relieve intestinal discomfort or help with insomnia.

 

 

About

IMG_2608Dill is a unique plant in that all parts, flowers, leaves and seeds, are used as a seasoning. Dill usually grows 1-2 feet tall, but can reach heights of  4-6 feet tall and 1 foot wide if it is the mammoth variety.

Dill loves full sun and hot temperatures, and rich well drained soil usually amended with manure or compost.  Give them lots of room (18 inches between plants), but plant them shallow (1/4-inch deep).  Wait to sow seeds until the soil is  60 to 70ºF for best results.  Dill requires a good consistent watering, but don’t drown the plants.

Dill is not a good herb to start indoors and transplant outside.  It is best to start them outdoors.  You should see the young plants appear like a wispy fern in 10-14 days.  They say to extend the harvest don’t let it flower, and keep sowing seed every few weeks.  If you leave your dill in the garden undisturbed, it has a good chance of coming back the next year.

Dill is susceptible to leaf spot and other fungal leaf and root diseases so it is important to not over water dill, and give it lots of room to grow.

You can also grow dill indoors but it will be smaller.  I hope to grow many herbs under grow lights this winter.  I will let you know how it goes.IMG_2432

To harvest the seed, cut the flower heads off the stalks when the seed is beginning to ripen. Then place them upside down in a paper bag and  in a warm, dry place for a week and store in an airtight container.  You can harvest the leaves as soon as the plant has four to five leaves.

Store fresh dill in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel or with stems in water. It will usually keep a couple of days.  Dill can also be frozen in airtight containers or in ice cube trays covered with water or stock. Dried dill seeds can be stored in a glass container in a cool, dry, dark place for about six months.

 

 

Folklore

IMG_2607Dill has been used for thousands of years for its culinary and medicinal properties.  Dill is mentioned in the Bible and in ancient Egyptian writings, and was popular in ancient Greek and Roman cultures.  It was considered a sign of wealth, and kept under lock and key.

Hippocrates used dill for cleaning the mouth, and ancient soldiers would apply burnt dill seeds to their wounds to help them heal.  Anglo-Saxon England used recipes borrowed from the Greeks to help with jaundice, headache, stomach problems, sleeping problems and liver problems. And dill water was used for centuries as a tonic for colicky babies.

Dill was an important herb in witchcraft. It was hung on the door for protection, and carried as a protective sachet. When placed in a cradle it protected a child.

 

 

Uses

 

Culinary

Fresh and dried dill leaves (or”dill weed”) are widely used in Germany, Poland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Baltic, Russia, and central Asia. DSCN1971They flavor borscht and other soups, butter, potatoes, as well as pickles.  Also used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking.

You can even put some seed on the table to munch on after dinner to ward of indigestion.

Dill oil is extracted from all parts of the plant, and used in the making of soaps.

Depending on the part of the plant used, the flavor changes:

  • The leaves are least flavorful, so use them in egg dishes, with fish,  dips, spreads and on vegetables.
  • The flowers have more flavor and are a great addition to your homemade pickles.  We used them and they look, smell and taste great.
  • Dill seeds have the strongest flavor. Used whole or ground, they make a wonderful herb bread and flavored vinegar.

 

Medicinal

IMG_8067Dill’s volatile oils act as a protective food (like parsley) that are thought of as neutralizing carcinogens.  And the oil also works like garlic to keep bacteria at bay. And who knew dill was such a great source of calcium, fiber, manganese, iron and magnesium.

 

Garden

Dill draws many beneficial insects such as wasps and other predatory insects.  I grew it with cukes, peas, radishes and beans and in a raised bed where it comes back every year.

They say cabbage, onions, tomatoes and carrots do not like dill.  Also don’t plant fennel and dill close to each other as they will cross pollinate into a less than desirable herb.

 

 

Language of Flowers

Dill has many meanings.  One has to do with lust and satisfying needs. It was thought once dill is eaten or smelled it was an IMG_7306aphrodisiac. Another meaning is good spirits or good cheer.  And yet another is survival in the face of odds.

 

 

“How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?”
–  Andrew Marvel

 

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Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best-Herbs:

September-Parsley

August-Anise Hyssop

July-Basil

June-Monarda

May-Thyme

April-Mint

March-Common Yarrow

February-Chives

January-Lavender

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Next up on the blog:  Monday will bring the first fall Bloom Day.  I wonder what will be blooming?.

I wrote a guest post over at Vision and VerbTuesday the 24th.  I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

28 comments

  1. Christina says:

    It looks so similar to fennel I’m sure you could dry the flowers as I do to use with roast potatoes, pork dishes and they are wonderful with mushrooms. The swallow tail caterpillrs here use fennel as their host plant. Dill has a slightly different taste less aniseed I think.

    • Donna says:

      I did not know that about fennel flowers. I just grew some this year and hope it will come back. Swallowtails here will also use fennel, parsley or dill as a host plant. Yes dill is much different than fennel for taste, but similar in appearance.

      At the holidays my family ate fennel like celery. I was never a fan although I love licorice. But I bet I would like the leaves and flowers in dishes.

  2. Anna K says:

    Dill is such a wonderful herb! In my native Sweden, it is used a lot – dill-cooked new potatoes are a summer staple, and the flowers and stalks are used for the August cooking of crayfish. It puts a great twist on salad dressings too. Yum! Great post!

  3. Dorothy says:

    Dill is such a pretty herb to include in the garden. I have enjoyed reading all of your Simply the Best posts, and I especially enjoy the folklore associated with the plants. So interesting!

  4. Susie says:

    Donna, I had the same thought as Christina. Your dill looks just like my Fennel, which I seem to only remember as finochio–fennel in Italian. Just one of those words I remember from the shopping list….
    Could they be in the same family? I like to chop up fennel and use it in a pan of roasted vegetables, but I’m not wild about dill in other cooking, which is weird. I love the ancient use of dill as “survival in the face of odds.” That just speaks to me of how much we have lost.

    • Donna says:

      Yes Susie they are both in the same family and very similar in appearance. My Italian family ate fennel at the holidays but I do not like it. But it sounds wonderful to try in veggie dishes and with meats. Dill is great with salmon and potatoes.

      I find it fascinating how ancient cultures used these same herbs in so many wonderful ways. We indeed have lost a lot.

    • Donna says:

      I will definitely be adding dill to salad dressing next year. I had never thought about the flowers in bud, but will add that to the edible flowers to try.

  5. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    Hi Donna, I love the look of Dill – but then again I would, as I love umbellifers – but don’t grow it as I don’t enjoy the taste at all. I am growing bronze fennel this year – or trying to, it didn’t get enough water this summer so I am not sure it is going to come back next year. I like the idea of people munching dill in the belief that it is an aphrodisiac!

    • Donna says:

      Janet, I also grew a starter bronze fennel plant in a big pot all season. It did well, and I let it flower and it was 4 foot high. I put it in my new moist herb garden and I hope it comes back again too.

      That folklore about dill was indeed a most interesting one 🙂 !!

    • Donna says:

      Jason I also had tons this year and used quite a bit with the pickles, but this year no swallowtails either…this is the first year we did not have any caterpillars.

  6. Susan says:

    Dill is so satisfying to grow. It adds a delicate beauty to the vegetable garden. I can’t wait to have it scattered throughout the beds next year.

  7. Tatyana@MySecretGarden says:

    Donna, I love this post! Dill is one of the most popular herbs in Russia. I can’t live without it. It goes to salads, soups, stuffing… everywhere! My boys can eat it straight from the plant, in the garden. Priceless herb!

    • Donna says:

      Tatyana, I have been using it more and love hearing about all its uses in the kitchen. We love just the smell of it. I sneak a few sprigs myself in the garden!

      So glad you loved the post!

  8. Donna says:

    I too grow dill in the garden for the butterflies, but like Jason, so caterpillars here either. I like it for its unique form, and I do use all my herbs in the kitchen. Nothing better in a recipe than fresh herbs and produce.

    • Donna says:

      Oh I so agree Donna. Fresh herbs are the best. I have dug up some herb plants to bring in this winter and will be sowing basil and cilantro indoors. All will on the heat mats and grow under the grow lights in the basement.

  9. Diana Studer says:

    My post will go up today, with your dill already garnishing my draft. I use (dried) dill in potato salad, love the tiny green stripes. Growing in the garden I have only bronze fennel, more for the eye than the kitchen, altho I do love the taste. My October choice surprised me as it turns out to be edible too!

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