The ancient herb, Anethum graveolens or Fernleaf dill as it is commonly known, was mentioned some 5,000 years ago in early Egyptian writings. It is the most important culinary herb in Scandinavia, as popular as parsley is in other parts of the world. The word ‘dill’ stems from the Old Norse word dilla, meaning “to lull,” and can be grown indoors and out. The feathery leaves make dill a pretty foliage plant, which is lovely as a green foil for the flowers in your garden. The fragrance of dill on fingers evokes a ‘comfort smell’ for many people as the leaves smell of homemade dill pickles. Old-fashioned dill water or gripe water as it is commonly known (made by infusing crushed dill seeds in hot water), is still used as a remedy for indigestion in adults as well as children.
Dill is an annual but self-seeds so once planted you will have it forever in your garden as long as you allow some of the plants to go to seed. Dill has yellow flowers and grows 1 – 4 ft. (30 – 120 cm) tall outdoors. In pots indoors, dill will be less tall. Grow dill from seed and when thinning, use the seedlings you pull up, as they are tender and delicious. Dried dill leaves are known as ‘dill weed.’ If you need dill seed for your fall pickles, plant some dill in mid-July to ensure you have ripening seed.
Cultivation requirements: grows best in deep, well-drained, fertile, sandy loam, likes compost or manure. Dill must be grown in full sun and watered during dry periods. Dill is easily grown from seed and grows well indoors if grown under fluorescent lights. Hang the lights 6 inches (15 cm) from plants and leave on for 14 hours a day. Dill does not transplant well and it needs a deep pot for its long taproots. Pinch out the tops to prevent flowering and seed setting to keep plants growing longer.
In the garden, dill can be planted with cabbages but not near carrots. In the kitchen, use dill for pickles, cabbage, turnips, cauliflower, in butter on fried or grilled fish, sour cream, meats, stews, cream cheese, dips. Use fresh with green beans, potato dishes, cheese, soups, salads, seafood, sauces, and snipped on vegetable dishes. Sprinkle young dill on broiling lamb, pork chops, or steaks during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Seeds can be sprinkled on toast or crackers with salmon that has been mixed with mayonnaise. Seeds and leaves can be used in fish sauces. Zucchini can be sliced thin and sautéed in olive oil and fresh dill leaves for a nice side dish.
Fresh dill can be kept in the fridge for a few days by submersing the stems in a glass of water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and make sure the leaves are above the water. Fresh leaves can be frozen in re-seal-able bags and used in dishes. Seeds can be stored in a closed container and used as needed. You can eat the leaves, seed heads, and seeds. Use seeds if cooking for a long time and dill weed if adding at the last minute. Dill can be dried or frozen.