By Brenda Hyde – The dill plant not only has lovely foliage; its fragrance is a “comfort smell” for many people. I barely touch its feathery leaves and the smell of homemade dill pickles, crisp and savory, rubs off on my hands. At the same time, dill is an herb that is often passed over as just a pickle spice and is not truly appreciated.
You can plan on growing dill from seed in full sun. Your dill plant will even tolerate a slightly sandy soil. However, when first planting dill you should keep the soil moist until established. Do not move your dill plant; instead, plant where you will be growing it. Thin the seedlings to 10 inches apart; they will grow about three feet high. Use the seedlings that you pull up; they are tender and delicious! Be sure to let one of your dill plants remain with its seeds after the season is finished, so it will reseed itself. These dill plants will be much sturdier and hardier. Throughout the summer you can plant dill in two-week intervals also, to maintain a supply of fresh leaves.
Dill leaf can be clipped and used in cottage cheese, potato salad, cream cheese, tomato soup, and salads. You may also sprinkle chopped young dill on broiling lamb, pork chops or steak during the last five minutes of cooking. The seeds that form on dill can be sprinkled on small pieces of toast or crackers with salmon that has been mixed with mayonnaise. Both the seed and leaf can be used in fish sauces. The fresh leaves can be frozen in small resealable bags and used in dishes. When the leaves are dried, they are referred to as dill weed in recipes. The seeds can be kept in a closed container and used as needed.
Dill has fresh crisp taste when the leaves are used, and a stronger, more pungent flavor when using the seeds. Both are useful and wonderful in the kitchen. Need an easy zucchini recipe? Simply slice your zucchini thin, sauté in olive oil and add fresh dill leaves for a nice side dish. Add a little to your cabbage dishes, tomato soups and sour cream for potatoes. The seed is great used on homemade crackers or bread sticks.
You can store fresh dill weed, which is now available year round in most produce sections, for a few days in the refrigerator. Place the stems in a glass of water and cover loosely with a plastic bag. Be sure to keep the leaves above the water level. The seeds keep well in an airtight jar stored in a cool, dry place. Harvest the seeds just when the seeds turn brown. Clip the seed heads with some stem and hang upside down to dry, with cloth or paper placed underneath the drying plant to catch the seeds.
Once you plant dill, it will self-sow year after year for you. It will be handy to snip into egg dishes, tuna, with cucumbers and a fresh addition to salads too!
Cucumber and Sour Cream Dressing
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated (1/2 cup)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar or fresh lemon juice
pepper and salt to taste
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill
In a small sieve set over a bowl, toss the cucumber with the salt and let drain for 10 minutes. In a blender blend the mustard, vinegar, pepper and salt to taste. Add the sour cream, yogurt, and the dill. Blend the mixture, scraping down the sides until it is smooth. Add the cucumber and blend until combined. Makes 1-1/2 cups.
Garlicky Beans with Dill
1 pound fresh beans
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Trim, string and rinse beans. Cut into 1-inch lengths, and steam until tender, 10 or 15 min. Drain. Melt butter in a skillet, add garlic and cook over a very low heat about 5 minutes until soft. Mash or remove garlic, whichever you prefer. Add the dill and stir. Add your beans and pepper flakes, cover and cook over low heat about 5 minutes. Salt to taste and serve.
Light Herbed Cheese Dip
1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese
¼ cup plain yogurt (learn how to make yogurt from scratch)
2 tablespoons each fresh dill and parsley, chopped
2 small green onions, chopped
½ teaspoon each minced garlic and salt
Put cream cheese and yogurt in food processor and or blender and process 1 to 2 minutes. Add other ingredients and process for just 30 seconds to blend. Serve with raw vegetables.
Tuna and Dill Tea Sandwiches
1 large can white tuna in water
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
3-4 chives leaves, chopped
¼ cup chopped cucumber
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
Mix together ingredients, and spread on thin bread that has had the crust cut off. Cut into triangles. If you wish a piece of lettuce can be placed on the sandwich also.
Dilled Green Beans
3 cups fresh green beans, cleaned (learn about growing green beans)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vinegar
½ cup water
1 bunch fresh dill, about 1 cup, chopped
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and place beans in the pan. Cook for about 45 seconds, until beans turn bright green. Remove from pan immediately and rinse in cold water until beans are cool. Drain.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in the beans; cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. This will keep in the refrigerator up to one week. 4 salad servings.
Brenda is editor of Old Fashioned Living, a freelance writer, cook, gardener, and mom.
Originally published in 2003 and regularly vetted for accuracy.