I adore the scent of dill. I love it so much I am considering starting a petition to get someone to distill the smell of dill into a perfume. Who’s with me?
Simply brushing against all parts of the plant – feathery leaves, flowers, seed heads – sends its fragrance out into the surrounding air. I think I’d grow it even if it weren’t edible.
The Story of Dill
Dill is native to the Mediterranean and southern Russia, but it is happy growing most anywhere. It was loved by early Greeks and Romans, who hung bunches of it in their homes to freshen the air. Roman gladiators covered their food with chopped dill because it was thought to bestow courage.
Witches used dill in the Middle Ages to ward off storms (love that!). People thought if a witch cast a spell on you, it could be removed by drinking a cup of dill water.
Dill became popular in 17th century England, where it was a common resident of kitchen gardens. Our love of growing and using dill continues to this day.
German and Belgian brides would wear a sprig of dill or carry it in their bouquets to bring happiness to their marriages. A bride who did not want her husband to be in charge could bring mustard and dill seeds to her wedding and repeat the words “I have you, mustard and dill, Husband, when I speak, you stay still!” Do you think that would work today?
How to Grow Dill
Dill is a member of the Umbelliferae family, so called because the flowers, or umbels, in all plants in this genus have flat-topped lacy flowers reminiscent of umbrellas. This fragrant family includes carrots, parsley, cilantro, Queen Anne’s lace, fennel and celery.
Dill is an annual and once you get it to reliably self-sow in your garden, you’ll never be without it. I tried so hard to grow it in my damper, clayish soil in Vancouver and could never get it to either germinate or take hold. So disappointing! However, it has been an entirely different story in my Okanagan garden, where it sows itself with abandon amongst flowers, vegetables and in containers. And I let it – it’s bright green lacy foliage and yellow-capped flower heads are a perfect companion to my calendula, sage, parsley and oregano.
Dill prefers full sun, although it doesn’t like extreme heat or drought (you’d never know it from the way it thrives in my dryish garden). However, hot weather can cause the plant to stop leaf production and go to seed early.
Start seeds in early spring and again in midsummer for a fall crop. Note: don’t try to transplant dill plants – they have a long taproot that will not appreciate being disturbed. Seeds are the way to go.
Definitely let the plants flower – members of the Umbelliferae family are amazing hosts for ladybug dragons, tiny wasps and other beneficial insects.
How to Save Seed From Dill
This is an easy one! Wait until the flower heads have turned brown and dry on the plant. Cut them off the stalk carefully and pop into a waiting paper bag. Leave the seedheads in the paper bag in a cool dry spot for a couple of weeks then shake the seeds into a bowl. Gently blow off the chaff outdoors and slide the seeds into an envelope for next year. Crush a few in your hand – even the seeds smell good!
How to Use Dill
The finely chopped leaves, flower heads and dry seeds all have culinary uses.
- Dill is best used fresh, but dried dill is also an option, although not as flavourful. To dry, pick the leaves and place them on a paper towel or waxed paper in a warm, dark dry spot until fully dry. You can also use a food dehydrator, or freeze the chopped leaves.
- Of course dill pickles are one of the first things that come to mind. Tuck a lacy branch or two or a dried seedhead into the jar with your pickles and preserving liquid.
- One of my favourite ways to eat dill is also one of the simplest. I chop fresh dill, chives and parsley and scatter over steamed new potatoes and sour cream.
- I chop lots of dill into a fresh Green Goddess dressing or dip. Combine equal parts of buttermilk, mayonnaise and sour cream (leave out the buttermilk if making a dip). You can also use silken tofu in place of these ingredients. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and whatever fresh tender herbs you have in the garden (parsley, tarragon, chives). This recipe from Simply Recipes insists there be a clove of garlic and a bit of anchovy paste. Process everything in a blender, food processor or with a stick blender until smooth and creamy. Enjoy on your favourite green salad, tossed with pasta salad, or as a dip for crudite.
- Dill seeds can be chewed as a digestive aid, rather like the fennel seed offered to guests at Indian restaurants (dill and fennel are cousins!). One tablespoon of dill seeds contains 100 milligrams of calcium.
- Dill used to sometimes be an ingredient in gripe water formulas, which were said to help relieve gas and stomach discomfort in infants with colic.
PLEASE NOTE: This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. I am not a healthcare professional. Please consult your doctor or other medical professional.
Where to Find Dill Seed
Dill seed can be found in racks and in catalogues anywhere you purchase garden supplies.
Dill is most often associated with pickles. Are you a dill pickle lover – yay or nay?