The scent of a lush stand of dill is one of my great gardening pleasures. I love to breathe in the remarkable aroma, a heady blend if mint, citrus and fennel, with a hint of sea air. ~ Lois Hole
Native to the western Mediterranean basin and western Asia, dill (Anethum graveolen) is easy to recognize when growing in the garden. Closely related to fennel, it is an upright, hardy annual, growing up to 2-3 feet tall, with glaucous, ovate leaves that further divide into thread-like segments. The tiny yellow flowers grow in the shape of an umbrella in summer and develop into flat, oval seeds by late summer-early fall.
The leaves, stems, flower heads and seeds of this aromatic herb are all edible. Harvest dillseed when the flower heads turn brown. When ripe, the seeds will fall off easily when brushed up against or touched. Store the flower heads in a paper bag to allow them to dry out even further. Then shake the dried flower heads and/or gently rub them to release the seeds. Remove all remaining stems and store in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Dill is a traditional Middle Eastern herb that has been important since Biblical times. Its leaves and flowers were found on the mummy of Amenophis II (c.1425BC) and both the ancient Egyptians and the Copts used dill medicinally. It is mentioned as being subject to a tithe in the Talmud (ancient Jewish law), and in ancient Rome, Pliny (AD23-79) extolled its numerous uses. Classified as a cooling carminitive, dill has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. ~Denis Brown
Dillseed are small and flat, with thin wing-like ridges. Their warm, sharp smell has been described as reminiscent of fennel, caraway and mint. When ripe, the seeds are toxic to birds (Fortin, 1996).
The Romans believed that dill was a “fortifying” herb, so it was common practice for gladiators heading into the arena to cover their (possibly) last meals with the herb to bolster their strength. The Romans were probably responsible for carrying dill to many of the regions where it now grows. ~ Lois Hole
- Ease indigestion (calming, toning effect on the digestive system)
- Carminative effects (eases gas)
- mild diuretic
- colic (notably in the form of gripe water for babies)
- increase milk production in nursing mothers
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dillseed is considered a yang tonic food, whose effects include: warming the kidneys, improving appetite, dispersing cold, promoting energy circulation and counteracting fish and meat poisoning (Lu, 1996).
Make a mix of carminative seeds, such as anise, cardamom, cumin, dill and fennel, and chew them at and between meals. These are all very helpful in reducing gas and bloating.
- soups, salads and stews
- pickling spice
- seasoning vinegars and marinades
- cold sauces
- flavor breads, potatoes and sometimes pastries
- in the preparation of salmon and crayfish (particularly in Scandinavia)
According to Fortin, “…dill goes very well with tomatoes, celeriac, beets, cucumbers, cabbage, fresh and sour cream, cream cheese, white sauces, melted butter, salad dressings, eggs, stews and seafood (1996: p. 469).
To ease digestion, steep 2 teaspoons of dillseed in 1 cup water for 10-15 minutes. Strain. Take ½ cup 2-3 times daily. ~Mindell
Until today, I have only used dillseed twice, and both in pickling recipes. This evening I have been chewing the seed mixture and sipping the tea and am excited about all of the other ways I can incorporate this delicious and versatile spice into my diet! I’m thinking of starting with the salmon…
Brown, D. (2001). Herbal: The essential guide to herbs for living. Pavilion Books Ltd.: London.
Fortin, J. (1996). The Visual Food Encyclopedia. Les Editions Quebec/Amerique: Montreal, Quebec.
Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 teas, tonics, oils, salves, tinctures, and other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family. Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA.
Harkins, M.G. (2002). Spices: From the Familiar to the Exotic- Recies from Around the World. Ryland Peters & Small, Inc.: New York.
Hole, L. (2000.) Herbs & Edible Flowers: Gardening for the Kitchen. Holes: St. Albert, Alberta.
Lloyd, C. (1997). Gardener Cook. Willow Creek Press: Minocqua, Wisconsin.
Lu, H. (1996). Sterling Publishing Company Inc.: New York
Mindell, E. (1992). Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible. Simon and Schuster: New York.
Werle, L., & Cox, J. (2000). Ingredients. Konemann: Cologne.