In my fourth installment of The Herb Series, I wanted to take a look at an herb that doesn’t receive the usual bright lights and raves that others such as cilantro and parsley get. And yet its use in various recipes are both long-standing and wide-ranging; anethum graveolens.  And for all you non-scientific folks out there, dill.

Most of us probably don’t know that much about dill; I certainly didn’t until recently. We just consider it a non-descript garnish to be laid to the side of our plates before diving into whatever is in front of us. However, dill is a staple in many kitchens in Europe and across Asia, is consumed both fresh and dried, and both the leafy ends and the seeds are eaten. It is used in that foundation of Russian cuisine, borscht, and in many cooking sauces (used both hot and cold) in the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Romania, as well as in the curing of salmon – for gravlax – and other fish and potato dishes. It is used to make teas and is included in many rotis and chapatis in India, and used as an ingredient in stir-fry style dishes in China, Laos and Vietnam. And let us not forget that culinary accompaniment that most of us in the west are familiar with, the humble dill pickle. The fine folks at www.allrecipes.com even have plenty of lovely recipes that contain dill, including this one:

Dill Sauce
1/2 c sour cream                                               1 1/2 tbsps. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice                                           2 tsps. chopped fresh dill

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill before serving with vegetables or crackers of your choice.

As with many other herbs, dill contains a plethora of nutritional properties as well. It has a considerable amount of niacin and dietary fiber, which is crucial to controlling blood cholesterol levels, and chemicals that can help diabetics in managing healthy blood sugar level. It has tremendous antimicrobial and immune-boosting general properties and is a major source of copper, potassium, calcium and magnesium. And it is rich in folic acid, beta carotene and riboflavin. But the real benefit of dill comes in the provision of vitamins A and C to the body. Vitamin A is key in maintaining good vision, and 100g of dill provides over twice the RDA. And the same serving of dill gives over 100% of the vitamin C recommended, which plays a vital role in boosting the immune system.

 

Dill is a pretty interesting little plant. It is a relative of the celery family, and strangely enough, is the only species in its genus (the genus anethum). It is native to Europe and Central Asia, and can grow to about two feet in height, producing a cluster of small flowers at the top of long, thin frond-like leaves resembling the tops of fennel. The plant requires a consistent hot summer and planting in full sun in order to flourish, as well as a rich, well-drained soil. Like most other herbs and spices, its full flavor is best derived in its fresh form, as the dried version can fade quickly. In a home garden, dill makes an excellent planting companion to both fennel and cucumbers, while planting near carrots or tomatoes is discouraged.
From a personal standpoint, I am not a fan of dill. While its scent isn’t unpleasant, the intensity of it is overwhelming to me – after having fresh dill in my refrigerator overnight, the scent lingered for days afterward. And as for the taste…well, if you are not a licorice/anise seed person, you will very likely be put off by the flavor, especially as it only requires a very small amount to achieve its full profile. However, I do respect the little plant for its culinary and medicinal abilities, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried it to find a place for it in their future home kitchen adventures!

 

A special thanks to www.wikipedia.org and www.nutritionandyou.com for their helpful information!

 

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