materia medica-dillBotanical name: Anethum graveolens

Common name: Dill

Family: Apiacae

Parts used: Young leaves, flowers and seeds

Native Region: Found in the Mediterranean region and southern Russia, and as a weed growing in corn fields of Spain and Portugal

Botanical Description: The plant grows ordinarily from 2 to 2 1/2 feet high and is very like fennel, though smaller, having the same feathery leaves, which stand on sheathing foot-stalks, with linear and pointed leaflets. Unlike fennel, however, it has seldom more than one stalk and its long, spindle-shaped root is only annual. It is of very upright growth, its stems smooth, shiny and hollow, and in midsummer bearing flat terminal umbels with numerous yellow flowers, whose small petals are rolled inwards. The flat fruits, the so-called seeds, are produced in great quantities. They are very pungent and bitter in taste and very light, an ounce containing over 25,000 seeds. Their germinating capacity lasts for three years. The whole plant is aromatic.[1]

Growing: Annual. Sow seeds in spring, summer (in a mild climate) or autumn. Dill requires a cooler soil temperature to germinate. Save seeds and replant every year. Prefers a well-drained compost-rich soil in a sunny location. It has moderate water needs, as the leaves are very fine. In hot weather dill needs regular watering particularly when mature. You can conserve moisture in the soil by mulching well. Dill does not like being moved once planted or after seeds have germinated, so choose the location carefully. Dill prefers a sheltered spot rather than being exposed to wind which can snap its long hollow stems. You may need to stake it to prevent damage. 

Harvesting: If you want to prevent the seeds from self-sowing, cover the flower heads with small organza bags or sew your own and attach with a tie. You can then snip the stem off when the seeds are dry and process them for storing. Simply shake the seeds into the bag and discard any dead plant material. Or you can snip each flower head off as it turns brown and place in a paper bag to save the seeds. Freezing the seeds overnight as with coriander and other herbs you want to save, kills any insects present.[3] To harvest, use a pair of scissors and snip the leaf sprigs above the stem where new leaves are forming. The leaves can be dried on low dehydrator temperature (~95ºF) and stored in dark, dry place. Leaves should be used soon because they do not retain flavor very long. Snip flower heads when seeds turn brown. Store in a brown paper bag or on trays until completely dry. Shake bag vigorously or use your hands to pull seeds from the umbils. Dill fruits are oval, compressed, winged about one-tenth inch wide, with three longitudinal ridges on the back and three dark lines or oil cells (vittae) between them and two on the flat surface. The taste of the fruits somewhat resembles caraway. The seeds are smaller, flatter and lighter than caraway and have a pleasant aromatic odour. They contain a volatile oil (obtained by distillation) on which the action of the fruit depends. The bruised seeds impart their virtues to alcohol and to boiling water. Seeds store well for up to 10 years in a dark, dry, refrigerated place. Flowers can be used in floral arrangements. Dill fruits are oval, compressed, winged about one-tenth inch wide, with three longitudinal ridges on the back and three dark lines or oil cells (vittae) between them and two on the flat surface. The taste of the fruits somewhat resembles caraway. The seeds are smaller, flatter and lighter than caraway and have a pleasant aromatic odour. They contain a volatile oil (obtained by distillation) on which the action of the fruit depends. The bruised seeds impart their virtues to alcohol and to boiling water. [1]

Culinary Uses: Dill has been used with cucumbers to make pickles of cucumbers and cauliflower since the 1600’s.[1] In central and eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Baltic states, Russia, and Finland, dill is a popular culinary herb used in the kitchen along with chives or parsley. Fresh, finely cut dill leaves are used as topping in soups, especially the hot red borsht and the cold borsht mixed with curds, kefir, yoghurt, or sour cream, which is served during hot summer weather and is called okroshka. [2]

In the same way, prepared dill is used as a topping for boiled potatoes covered with fresh butter – especially in summer when there are so-called “new”, or young, potatoes. The dill leaves can be mixed with butter, making a dill butter, which can serve the same purpose. Dill leaves mixed with tvorog form one of the traditional cheese spreads used for sandwiches. Fresh dill leaves are used all year round as an ingredient in salads, e.g., one made of lettuce, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, the way basil leaves are used in Italy and Greece. Russian cuisine is noted for liberal use of dill. Its supposed anti-flatulent activity caused some Russian cosmonauts to recommend it for manned spaceflight due to the confined quarters and closed air supply.[2]

Dill is the perfect partner to lemon, cucumber, zucchini and seafood. It is widely used in pickles and dips and makes a delicious herb butter when chopped with chives. I use it in savory pancakes. The edible blooms are a fragrant addition to salads and sandwiches, as a garnish on soups along with the chopped leaves and can accompany any dish you would use the leaves in.[3]

Medicinal Uses: Like other umbelliferous fruits and volatile oils, both dill fruit and oil of dill possess stimulant, aromatic, carminative and stomachic properties making them of considerable medicinal value. Oil of Dill is used in mixtures, or administered in doses of 5 drops on sugar, but its most common use is in the preparation of Dill Water, which is a common domestic remedy for the flatulence of infants, and is a useful vehicle for children’s medicine generally.[1]

Dill Tea or Gripe Water Recipe

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of seeds or fresh leaves. Stir well and allow to infuse for 3-5 minutes. Add stevia or honey to taste and sip as a tea or use plain and cooled as gripe water.[1]

Garden Uses: Dill can be used as a companion plant not just to provide food for insects, but also to repel pests like white cabbage moth. It’s a perfect solution because it grows during the cooler months, when brassica crops like cabbage, broccoli and kale also grow well. With its strong smelling foliage, dill can deter the moths from laying the eggs (and caterpillars) from eating these vegetables.[3]

Recipes:

Ariel Knutson has a variety of dill recipes posted in 13 Recipes to use up a Bunch of Dill

Taste of Home lists 41 recipes showing that dill is not just for pickles.

References

1. https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dill–13.html

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dill

3. Anne Gibson, “Guide to Using Kitchen Herbs for Health.pdf”

Billie Nicholson, Editor
July 2018

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