Dill, an Herbal Profile
I love visiting my herb garden in the summer. The many plants we are growing are producing prolifically by now, waiting to be picked and used fresh in our supper or dried for use later into the winter. One of the most fruitful herbs I seem to have each year is dill. It is incredibly easy to grow, though like many other herbs, requires certain planting preferences to grow well. Dill is a member of the parsley and celery family with a licorice scent and taste. It grows best in full sun and, in my opinion, is easiest to grow when direct seeded. It just does not transplant well, which is why you won't normally find it at the garden center! Just purchase a package of dill seeds, sow, and watch it take off! The best part? It tends to self sow, or you can save the seeds (which come by the thousands) for planting next year. Trust me, you'll have plenty!
Dill originates from the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia, explaining why it fits in so well with seafood dishes. As an American, I associate dill immediately with kosher dill pickles. Yum! It was not always used for this. Dill has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years, dating back to before 3,000 BC in ancient Egyptian medicinal texts. Then it was used for a multitude of reasons, one of the most popular being its ability to ease a pained stomach. It was thought to be a symbol of luck and wealth in ancient Rome and Greece, and as an aphrodisiac or a spell to ward off witches in Egypt.
From the ancient Norse word dylla it means to soothe or lull. It's no wonder that dill seed is still made into an herbal tea today for stomach pain and flatulence!
Every part of the dill plant is edible, including its fronds and flowers. The feathery fronds are picked and eaten fresh most often. While you can dry the fronds, it's not recommended as the flavor decreases significantly. I prefer clipping them as the plant matures, taking sprigs here and there, for use in salad dressings and other sauces! It has a natural pairing with other summer vegetables like summer squash and zucchini, asparagus, cucumbers, and spinach. That makes it a perfect herb to add to your summer garden!
If you are hoping for dill seeds, it's important to let the plant go to flower. The flowers can be either yellow or white and will produce thousands of little brown seeds by midsummer. It is insane how many seeds there are! You can harvest them on a daily basis, and there will be many that naturally fall to the ground and sow themselves. Last summer, I had a second round of dill coming up by August that I was so thankful for. More dill! I am not sure how it overwintered here in Iowa since we moved, but I am excited to see if that happens for us here at the farm.
While wonderful in cooking, it is also a perfectly effective method of holistic healing. You can use dill for multiple medicinal benefits, and I find that I use it most often in tea after a long day to help soothe me to sleep and reduce any gas and bloating I may have from my earlier meals. It is a great replacement if you are out of fennel seeds, my favorite herb for bloating! Some of dill's medicinal benefits include:
- Soothing stomach pain and gas
- Anti-bacterial and good for oral health, breath freshening
- Stimulates lactation and menstruation (be careful if you are pregnant!)
- Alleviates colic in infants
- Promotes digestion
- Prevents insomnia
- Maintains bone health
- Effective in managing diabetes and controlling insulin levels
- Boosts the immune system
- Helps to sooth hiccups and can be great for calming congestion during a cold or allergies
What do you use dill for? Have you tried it in an herbal tea?