Dill – Characteristics, cultivation, use and curative effect

Dill blossom
Dill blossom

Dill is a spice herb that does not belong to any dish as much as to fish. Originally it was used only as a medicinal herb, as can be concluded from the meaning of its name. Originally from Old English, the word “dylle” is translated as calming or softening, referring to the flatulence soothing effect of the plant.

Profile of Dill:

Scientific name: Anethum graveolens

Plant family: umbellifer

Other names: dill herb, dilly, garden cucumber, cucumber herb, caper herb

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: July-August

Harvest time: June – September

Location: sunny; sheltered from the wind

Soil quality: porous, humus and nutrient-rich soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: wound healing, pain relief, flatulence, bloating, milk flow, stomach upset

Use as aromatic herb: fish dishes, potato dishes, salads, cucumbers

Plant characteristics and classification of Dill

Origin and distribution

Dill is a distinctive herbaceous plant that has already been used by the peoples of antiquity for food and ailments. The herb probably originated from Southeast Asia, from where it was imported and cultivated to Southern Europe and finally Western Europe. The plant was also cultivated in most monastic gardens as a medicinal and as a spice herb.

Systematics of anethum graveolens

Dill belongs to the umbelliferae family (Apiaceae). It is related to herbs such as chervil, yarrow or parsley. The genus of dill plants (Anethum) consists of only one species, which, however, is divided into different subspecies. These subspecies include the well-known garden dill, corn caraway and the Indian dill.

Characteristics of dill

The dill is annual and can reach stature heights of up to 1.30 meters (50 inches) under optimal conditions. On average, however, heights between 30 and 80 cm (12 and 31 inches) are reached. Dill herbs are typical deep rooting plants with noticeable narrow and spindle-shaped roots. The shoot axes (stems) of the plant have fine rills, which are hollow inside and have small bluish green spots. The leaves are noticeably pinnate, soft and reminiscent of small needles. The adult leaves are between 30 and 40 cm (12 and 16 inches) tall. Its leaves have so-called oil passages that store the essential oils of the plant.

Dill blooms between July and August and forms, typically flower stands in the form of double umbels. The umbels are on average between 10 and 15 cm (4 and 6 inches) tall. Each umbel can contain up to 25 small flowers that contain characteristic yellow-colored petals. The flowers form nectar and are pollinated by insects (mostly beetles). From the flowers develop brown schizocarps, which disintegrate into two winged part fruits.

Dill plant
Dill plant

Sow and plant dill

As an annual plant it needs to be re-seeded every year. Therefore, the seeds belong to the standard assortment in garden centers and plant centers. Alternatively, you can collect the seeds yourself by harvesting the brown seeds of the previous year’s plant. However, it partly sows by itself, or grows wild, as in the case of the field dill / corn caraway.

The sowing will start in the open air in April, within the house on the windowsill starting in March. Since dill is a dark germinate, the seeds should be covered with some soil. The optimum germination temperature is around 10 °C (50 ºF). It is harvested as soon as the first strong leaf green appears. To ensure that the plant continues to thrive vigorously and bushily, only the fresh, delicate tips are picked during the growing season from May to November.

Dill likes sunny and slightly sheltered locations. Indeed, locations that are exposed to high wind influences can cause the filigree shoots to break. In addition, the herb needs a loosened soil with high amount of humus, which should be well moistened for its growth. It is very sensitive to irregular water supply and should be watered regularly.

Dill is susceptible to fungi and root pests such as root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.), which infest especially young plants. It should therefore not be planted near potatoes, chives or garden onions, as they are attractive to nematodes. However, it also keeps away pests such as the cabbage white butterfly and also some aphids. It is often planted in combination with cucumbers, tomatoes or Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, thyme or sage, as these herbs can act as a natural pest.

If the harvest is abundant, it is possible to freeze the dill. Aroma and taste remain, just as when drying. Although suitable as a dried herb, freezing in favor of the taste is preferable.

Dill and its use

In addition to fish dishes, dill, with its mild, peculiar taste, also enhances numerous dishes, and also ensures good digestion

In the kitchen

The heyday of harvest is in summer. In many supermarkets large bundles of the herb can be found – mostly next to pickled cucumbers. It is a traditional spice herb, which enjoys great popularity as a flavoring agent in preserving of cucumbers – that is why the alternative name cucumber herb (not to be confused with borage, which is also traded under the synonym cucumber herb).

Dill is more well-known in the kitchen as a spice herb for fish. The mild, herbaceous and slight taste of fine tips harmonizes well with tender fish. Fish such as salmon, trout or pike-perch are particularly tasty, if they have been previously coated with a dill marinade. Dill is crushed in combination with basil, coriander, lemon, pepper and salt. The mixture is put on the fish and then kept in the fridge for two days before being finally cooked.

In addition, it is also used for numerous sauces, salads and soups, or simply used as a decorative set. However, dill should be added just before serving or at the end of the cooking time so that the essential oil does not evaporate.

If possible, fresh or frozen leaves should be used for the preparation as they are significantly more aromatic than the dried ones.

As a medicinal herb

Dill is a well-known medicinal herb in folk medicine. In ancient times it was used for various purposes. For example, gladiators and show fighters have rubbed themselves with dill oil, since it was considered pain-relieving and wound healing. Likewise, the herbs were used in old Egypt for complaints such as headaches.

In the herbal books of the Middle Ages the herb was taken for many complaints. Externally, the seeds were used for wound healing. In addition, the oil has been used in the treatment of tumors and generally for pain relief. Internally, the herb was especially used for pregnant women who had difficulties with their milk production. The seeds are boiled in water or wine. Also, it was used in the treatment of gastrointestinal complaints, such as fullness, flatulence or diarrhea.

So far, however, there are hardly any clinical studies that have further dealt with the healing effects of dill, so that a conventional medical evaluation of the healing effect can not be given. Basically, however, the ingredients contained in the seeds and leaves are quite rich in medicinal substances.

Although dill is not commonly used in folk medicine, there are significantly more effective herbs in the umbelliferae family (including anise, cumin, fennel). It has an appetite-stimulating, antispasmodic, partially antibacterial effect and improves digestion.

The seeds, as well as the leaves of the plant can be used for the following complaints:

  • Indigestion (including flatulence)
  • Discomfort of milk flow for mothers
  • anorexia
  • Heartburn (especially in reflux esophagitis)
  • insomnia
  • hemorrhoids
  • head lice

As mentioned earlier in the text, dill is a proven herb against flatulence. It has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries to alleviate gastrointestinal problems. The seeds of the herb are therefore sometimes added to baby teas to relieve bloating. In addition, the plant is known to support milk flow, which is why the herb is used as an ingredient for breastfeeding.

For the preparation of teas only the seeds are used. Some sources recommend using between 2.5 and 3 grams (0.09 and 0.1 oz) of dill seeds to relieve symptoms. It should not be used for acute conditions such as gastrointestinal inflammation. The seeds taste slightly sweet and sometimes reminds a bit of fennel.

The flower of dill
The flower of dill

Buy – What is there to pay attention to?

Dill tastes best when freshly picked. When buying as a potted plant, you should therefore make sure that the tips are strong green and the typical dill flavor is noticeable. Many fast-cultured plants are sometimes of poor quality.

The same goes for bunch of dill. If it hangs, the harvest has been some time ago or the plant was stored without water. Also, if there is a lack of fresh, deep-frozen dill, which is far richer in flavor than the dried version, is a good choice.

If you want to buy dried dill, only tips should be purchased. Some providers sell quite the whole herb including stems and some with flowers. Hence, such goods can be considered highly inferior and are not worth the money. Please make sure that the goods are always aroma or tightly sealed, since dried dill has already less aroma than the fresh or frozen herbs.

Those who need seeds for their garden can certainly look at a large variety of different varieties. The most common variety is probably Dill Elephant (Anethum graveolens), which is rather late-flowering. Also, common are the varieties Tetra Dill and quadruplet, with Tetra Dill is considered a rich harvest. Sometimes the subspecies Indian dill (Anethum graveolens L. subsp. Sowa) is offered, which is considered less aromatic than the varieties of garden dill (Anethum graveolens L. var. Hortorum). The Indian dill is nevertheless an excellent spicy herb with a strong taste, which is especially useful for the preparation of Indian foods and spices, e.g. curry powder.

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