Posted by: briellethefirst | April 1, 2011

Dill


Dill

Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is another annual that usually only gets about 3 feet tall. My Dad grew it to use in his pickles when he grew cucumbers and kind of got attached to it so it went wild for a while. My Sisters hate it now…too much of a good thing! On the other hand stripey yellow and black caterpillars that grow up to be swallowtail butterflies love it, so it all balances out. On hot days it perfumes the garden without even being brushed against, one reason my sisters grew tired of it, but I love it.

The first season in my new house (over a decade ago) I planted a variety called Long Island Mammoth. WOW! It grew, kept growing and became a neighbourhood attraction. The whole 8′ row grew nearly 7′ tall by Twelfth Night! I should probably mention that I live in the Phoenix, AZ area so my gardening season starts in September. Usually it only grows about 3 feet tall.  As it started to flower it also started to wilt and on closer inspection it had TONS of aphids. I went straight to my collection of old organic Gardening magazines to find a cure that wouldn’t kill me. The next day was dreary and drizzly, so being a proper Arizonan I took the stack out to the back porch to enjoy the weather with a cup of tea. As I searched for articles I was entertained by the native finches and not-so-native sparrows frolicking in my dill forest. After a while I realized they weren’t frolicking so much as feasting…on aphids! I sat back, enjoying tea and a show better than anything on TV.

Immature dill seed head

Dill setting seed

Dill is an annual, so although you can often find it already started at nurseries it may be easier and is definitely cheaper to start it from seed. I start mine in September but if you don’t live in the southern part of the US with wonky seasons you’ll probably want to start it as soon as it’s warm enough to plant other stuff in your garden. Plant it in rich soil the back to it doesn’t get in the way of other shorter plants. It’s a good companion to onions, cabbage family and potatoes. Look up companion planting…it’s fun! The earliest evidence we have for dill’s cultivation is in Neolithic lake settlements in Switzerland, so we’ve been using it a long time. Don’t grow it too close to fennel and other relatives like parsley, caraway and anise or it may cross-pollinate and the seed won’t quite turn out as expected.

The leaves are used extensively in Scandinavian cooking and in fish. They make a nice garnish, flavour vinegar nicely and are almost essential in pickles and by extension potato salad (cold or warm). The seeds can be used in pickles, cheese, asparagus or beets. Use it fresh, dry or frozen. Sometimes the flowers are used in pickles and left in for decorative affect. If you want to harvest the seeds and wait til they’re compleatly ripe you’ll lose most of them to nature. Put the almost-ripe seed heads in paper bags to dry and rub off any that don’t fall off on their own. Store in airtight containers when they’re compleatly dry so they don’t get moldy.  Use it sparingly at first, a little goes a long way, but once you find the right dishes for dill it will be indispensable, even if only for the seed’s reputation to relieve gassiness.

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