Dilly for Dill
With its feathery, blue-green leaves and clusters of yellow flowers in summer, dill (Anethum graveolens) is an elegant, 1 m-high feature plant for the herb, veggie and flower garden. The showy flowers attract many beneficial insects, such as tiny wasps and flies that prey on aphids. For this reason, dill is often planted alongside lettuces, cabbages, cucumbers, cauliflowers, and onions – not to mention roses that also benefit from its aphid-attracting qualities.
Being a hardy, frost-tolerant annual, it can be planted anytime between spring and mid-summer. It prefers a sunny position that’s protected from the wind, and also rich, well-drained soil. Do not let the plant dry out in mid-summer, or else it will run to seed very quickly.
The fresh leaves are picked throughout the year, and have far more flavour than dried leaves. They are used in marinadesand salad dressings, to flavour hot and
cold dishes, medicinally, and for making a soothing digestive tea. The seeds are harvested and dried in autumn and are used in pickles, for baking, and also medicinally.
Dill by another name
In Laos and parts of northern Thailand, dill is known in English as Lao coriander, and is used in traditional dishes such as Mok pa (steamed fish in banana leaf), and coconut milk-based fish or prawn curries. In Sri Lanka, dill seeds and leaves are also used to flavour fish and vegetable curries.
Salads and Dressings
In Romania, Serbia and Hungary, dill leaves are used in cabbage, cucumber and lettuce salads, much the same way that basil is used in Italy and Greece. Another way to use dill is to incorporate it into salad dressing, or to make dill vinegar.
This simple sauce is served with fish or meat, and with eggs and fried sausages (a Romanian specialty): Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour, and cook until the mixture bubbles. Add 1 cup of broth (chicken or beef) and, whisking constantly, bring to a slow boil. Cook until thickened, whisking frequently. Slowly add 1 or 2 ladles of the broth mixture to 3/4 cup of sour cream so that it doesn’t curdle. add this mixture back into the sauce, whisking until smooth. Add 3 tablespoons of chopped, fresh dill, and adjust seasonings. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Nice and spicy
Dill seeds are surprisingly pungent and flavourful, similar in taste to caraway, and are used as a spice. The seeds are used in vegetable and fish pickles, as well as to flavour baked bread, biscuits, cakes, meat stews, braised cabbage, and cooked rootvegetables.
How to save seeds
Save seeds by cutting the flower heads off the stalks when the seed is beginning to ripen. Place the seed-heads upside down in a paper bag, and leave in a warm, dry place for a week. The seeds then separate from the stems easily, for storage in an airtight container.
Dill is best known for its carminative action of relieving gas and so helps to ease digestion, acts as an antispasmodic, alleviates flatulence, and helps to settle infant colic. That is why seeds are often added to fatty or heavy meat dishes. Interestingly, its name comes from the Norse dylla, which meant ‘to soothe’. The ancient Greeks also used dill to encourage a good night’s sleep. Because dill has anti-bacterial properties, it can be used to fight off infections internally and externally making it a useful addition to herbal cough, cold and flu remedies. For people on a salt-free diet, dill can act as a salt substitute, because it is rich in mineral salts.
Dill seed is a very good source of calcium, manganese, iron, fibre, and magnesium. Regularly eating dill can help prevent osteoporosis. Chewing the seeds also improves bad breath.
Delicious dill tea
Make a tea from the leaves adding just boiled water to 1/3 cup of bruised leaves. Allow to draw for 5-10 minutes, drain and drink especially after a rich meal. To make a tea from the seeds, use 1/2-1 teaspoon of bruised seeds in a cup of boiling water, and infuse for 10 minutes. The dosage is 2-3 teaspoons for babies (for colic), 1/2 a cup for older children, and 1 cup for adults.
Did you know?
Fresh dill is one of the most popular herbs in the Polish kitchen, along with parsley and chives. This is how they use it:
• As a topping, with butter, for new potatoes
• As a garnish for hot and cold soup, especially borsht (beetroot soup)
• Mixed with cottage cheese as a spread
• With sour cream as a dressing for cucumbers
• In salad with tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber
• Baked (leaves and stalks) with salmon and trout
• As hot dill sauce served with freshwater baked fish, chicken or turkey breast, as well as with potatoes and hard-boiled eggs.