Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Herb Week Day 2: Dill (Anethum Graveolens)

I'm so thankful for the mild winter we had. While my four-year-old was upset that, "We only got to go sledding ONCE, Mom!", I was thrilled to see some plants in my garden growing where I'd never planted them! I've got lots of dill (Anethum graveolens) this year, I assume because the seeds were in my compost and were not killed off by the cold. When I noticed them growing in the bed I'd planned for peppers, I quickly dug them up and gave them a proper spot in the herb garden.

Fresh dill just screams summertime to me. It's used in lots of light summer dishes and gives each one that extra taste complexity. What would a summer potato salad be without dill? Nothing, I tell you!

Growing
Dill is one of the easiest herb to grow from seed sprinkled on top of the soil in spring. It likes full sun and mostly dry conditions. I grow it in the potager, in a raised bed with quick drainage.

Harvesting
Fresh dill should be harvested before the plant goes to flower. Once it flowers, foliage production is diminished as the plant puts it's energy toward seed production, and the flavor is not as strong. If your's have gone to flower, though, it's not too late. You can still use the dill seed in dishes that call for dill. After flowering, collect the seed heads, tie the cut ends of the stem together, and hang them upside down in a paper bag. The ripened seeds will dry and fall into the bag. They can then be stored for later use. Fresh dill can also be dried using a dehydrator, or frozen.

Enjoying
Not only is dill a great herb, it also provides enjoyment in the garden by way of attracting butterflies. Many of them use dill as a host plant for caterpillars. We've had some swallowtails lay eggs there early in the spring, and have had to be careful to wash off those eggs before using the dill in recipes!

Dill looks great in the flower garden, as it has striking yellow/chartreuse flowers that add lots of summer interest.
Medicinally, dill is said to help with digestive problems, menstrual cramps, bad breath, and altitude sickness.

I have two favorite ways to use dill. One way is for my famous deviled egg recipe - just regular deviled eggs topped with a sprig of dill and smoked salmon. The other way is in cucumber salad, just thinly sliced cucumbers mixed with a dollop of sour cream and some dill sprinkled on. Dill is wonderful on salmon and other fish, and is a nice addition to homemade dips and salad dressings.

Try some new dill recipes to enjoy this summer favorite!

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