A non-profit organization dedicated to education with regard to the culture and use of herbs
line decor
   Herb of the Year   >  2010 MHS Herb of the Year - Dill   
line decor


2010 MHS Herb of the Year - Dill

About Dill
Anethum graveolens (a-ne thum gra ve o lenz) is a member of the carrot (Umbellelliferae or Apiaceae) family that also includes parsley, fennel, and caraway. This hardy annual herb has blue-green, feathery foliage and umbels of yellow flowers, followed by heads of oval seeds (technically fruits).Discover Dill Cookbook

Dill is an easy plant to grow from seed. Plan to sow several crops in succession, three weeks apart, to assure a supply over the entire growing season. Dill does best in full sun. While fairly tolerant of poor soil conditions, it prefers a sandy or loamy soil that drains well. Seeds are best sown right in the ground as soon as the night temperature reaches a minimum of 25 degrees F.

Plant seeds approximately 4 inches apart in rows 6 inches apart for leaf dill, or in rows 1 foot apart for seed because the plants can get quite large when fully mature.

Germination requires an uninterrupted supply of moisture. Given the right conditions dill grows fast. You can usually snip mature leaves eight weeks after planting. And, the bonus is that dill will often reseed the next year if you let the flowers go to seed.

Dill does not like to be transplanted because of its long taproot. Still, if you plant seeds indoors you can transplant outside when the plants are still small. Plants should be spaced 8-10 inches apart if you plan to harvest the leaves or 10-12 inches apart if harvesting seed.

Dill, especially dwarf types, grows very well in containers along or with other plants. It is a good companion for other sun-loving flowering annuals, herbs, or vegetables.

Dill Varieties

  • “Fernleaf” Dill is a 1992 All-America Selection winner. This unique dwarf dill reaches only 18 inches tall. It is slow to go to seed, which gives you more time to harvest the leaves. “Fernleaf” dill is an excellent plant for container growing and looks great in flower arrangements.
  • “Duckat” also known as “Tetra,” is grown for its abundant foliage and the seeds are great for seasoning. This variety is considered less hardy than the others, so be sure to wait until all danger of frost is past before planting.
  • “Bouquet” is an early bloomer that sports large seed heads and dark blue-green foliage. It is ideal for pickling.
  • “Superdukat” dill, introduced in 1997, has tall, more uniformly straight stems for easy harvesting. It is reported to have more essential oil than “Duckat”.
  • “Long Island” or “Mammoth” dill is so reliable that commercial growers commonly grow it.

Pests and Diseases
Dill attracts the caterpillar of the swallowtail butterfly, which feasts on its tender foliage. Either plant enough to share or move the caterpillar to Queen Anne’s lace, another favorite food source.

Aphids can be a pest on dill. Look for colonies of aphids on the seed heads. Dill is also subject to Fusarium root rot.

History and Folklore
Dill has been in cultivated since at least 400 BC and is native to western Asia and southern Europe. The ancient Romans knew dill as aneth. In addition to cooking with dill, they decorated the walls of their banquet rooms with garlands of the herb – an early form of air freshener.

The Romans most likely introduced dill to Britain, where it was first called anet. The Britons soon discovered the calming properties and renamed the herb dill from the Old Norse word dilla or the Anglo-Saxon dylle each meaning “to soothe” or “to lull”.

Dill has been used to induce sleep and is used in an infusion of water or wine to ease the digestive system. It is also used to relieve colic in babies and both the seeds and the leaves are used to dispel flatulence and to increase mother’s milk. Fidgety children were often given dill seeds to chew during a long church service to quiet and calm them.

Dill’s slightly narcotic properties stimulate as often as they soothe and in the Middle Ages dill was considered a necessary ingredient in successful love potions. It has also been used as a charm against hexes and witchcraft; bunches of dried dill were hung in the home or worn in a bag over the heart, promising protection against the evil eye!

Today, dill is most often used as a culinary herb. Always good with fish, especially salmon or with sour cream, white wine vinegar and salt as a dressing for sliced cucumbers. Dill is commonly considered a Scandinavian and Eastern European herb, which is used in borscht, cream sauces and gravlox.

Interestingly, it is also popular in the raitas of India and the salads of Greece and the Middle East. Iranian cooks make a rice pilaf and sabzi polow with copious amounts of dill.

Harvesting and Storing Dill
Dill leaves taste best when picked just before the flowers form on the plant. Start picking the fresh leaves just as soon as they are large enough to use, and clip close to the stem.

If you prefer to harvest dill seed, allow the flowers to form, bloom, then go to seed. Cut the seed heads when the majority of the seeds have formed. Hang the seed heads upside down by their stems in a paper bag. The seeds will fall into the bag when they mature and dry out.

Freshly picked dill leaves have the best flavor. However, they will keep for several days in the refrigerator if you put the stems in a glass of water and cover with a plastic bag (this works with other herbs as well). The leaves will also store for several months if you layer them with pickling salt in a covered jar in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use the leaves, rinse them and use as fresh.

Dill may also be dried for longer use. Dry by hanging in small bunches in a dark, dry, airy place until the leaves crumble. Dill may be dried in a dehydrator, as well, or frozen. To freeze dill, remove the leaves and place in plastic bags. Do not chop the leaves into small pieces because the flavor and fragrance will be lost. Dill will keep in the freezer for about 6 months.

Dill-Creamed Potatoes

This recipe is one of many featured in the Madison Herb Society “Discover Dill” cookbook.

1-1/2 lbs. tiny new potatoes
1 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 tsp. fresh dill, minced
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup half-and-half

Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until just tender. Drain and peel.

Melt butter, blend in flour, salt and dill. Stir in milk and cream and cook until it thickens. Reduce heat and add potatoes and heat through.

Garnish with more dill.