“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 (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.
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.
Dill 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.
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.
Dill 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.
Fresh and dried dill leaves (or”dill weed”) are widely used in Germany, Poland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Baltic, Russia, and central Asia. They 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.
Dill’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.
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 aphrodisiac. 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
Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best-Herbs:
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 Verb, Tuesday 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.
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