Tag Archives: dill

Dill – it’s not just for Pickles, you know!

This common garden herb is used for both its seed and its fragrant leaf. Everyone is familiar with the dill pickle, which is usually a cucumber left whole or cut into spears, chunks, or slices, and flavored with salt, dill, spices, and sometimes vinegar and garlic. And even though a pickle can be anything from a string bean to a peach, the long, crunchy cucumber spears will inevitably be flavored with dill seed.

fragrant dill seed


In cook’s jargon, pickling is actually a process of fermenting food in a salty brine, or immersing in vinegar for a quick pickle. What we commonly call “pickles” are technically pickled cucumbers. You can even pickle lumber, such as for paneling or flooring, with calcium carbonate or lime.

If you haven’t tried fresh dill weed, as the leaf is often called, you are in for a real treat. This lovely herb is used extensively in Scandinavian, Russian, and Eastern European cooking, and also in many Greek dishes. And while the leaf may look delicate, it adds a lot of flavor.

Deviled eggs and smoked salmon with dill

Use fresh dill weed with eggs, either as an edible garnish or as a small amount minced into the dish itself. It is the quintessential flavoring for a steaming bowl of new potatoes; simply sprinkle it on fresh, or dollop with a generous amount of dill weed blended with soft butter. You can use this butter to season all types of fresh vegetables as well as fish. Try sipping a cold glass of buttermilk or kefir flavored with a pinch of fresh dill – very refreshing.

New potatoes seasoned with dill

Chewing on dill seed is said to be a remedy for hiccups. The word dill comes from the Norwegian dylla, meaning “to lull”, and indeed, a mild tea made from the seeds is a good remedy for baby’s colic and is said to help bring on mother’s milk.

Dill Seed Tea – Boil 1 pint (2 cups) water, remove from heat, stir in 1 teaspoon dill seed, then cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and serve warm, up to 2 cups a day for mother and 2 small spoonfuls every hour for baby. You can also gently warm the seeds in milk for baby.

The lulling quality of dill must be one of the reasons why it is often used in sleep pillows – you know, those cute little pillows stuffed with magical herbs that you tuck under your regular pillow to lull you to sleep. I love how folklore and utility often go hand in hand.

Sleep pillow with herbs

The essential oil of dill has been shown to have antifungal and antibacterial potential, while the alcohol extract shows anti-oxidant properties; mass spectrometer studies resulted in the identification of 35 compounds responsible for the potency of this common garden herb.

It’s easy to grow dill. If you have the garden space, you can successively plant every two weeks starting in May until the end of June for fresh dill all summer. Dill likes full sun and loamy soil, and moderate watering. Snip fresh leaves throughout the summer to keep them growing, but let some stems grow into seed heads too.  Dill is a tall plant, from 2 to 3 feet, and prolific, so take that into consideration. Otherwise, find one of the more compact varieties to grow in a container. Fernleaf and Teddy are favorite container varieties, while Bouquet is the most common garden type.

Dill flower going to seed

Be sure to save some seed for planting Anethum graveolens next year: before they are fully ripe, cut the stem at least a foot below the seed head, and tie several stems into a bunch to hang and dry in a dark, airy place, perhaps with a loose paper bag around them to catch any errant seed. Dill makes a good companion plant for cole crops – cabbage, broccoli, and so on – while growing dill with carrots, parsnips or other plants of the Apiaceae or celery family (to which dill belongs) is discouraged.

If you find that you have extra dill fronds or flowering heads, you can use them in floral arrangements; they are quite beautiful.

Dill in a floral arrangement

[This article is an excerpted and revised version of “D is for Dill”, which is found in my book, THE WILD & WEEDY APOTHECARY.  You can purchase a signed copy of my book directly from me for $25 ppd. US only.  Please leave a comment if you want me to contact you.]

This Fish is Delish!

It’s a dilly of a dish!


If you haven’t tried fresh dill weed – and it’ pretty easy to get even at the mega-mart these days – you are in for a real treat. This lovely herb is used extensively in Scandinavian, Russian and Eastern European cooking. And while the leaf may look delicate, it adds a lot of flavor. Use fresh dill weed in egg dishes, either as an edible garnish or as small amounts minced into the dish itself. It is the quintessential flavoring to a steaming bowl of new potatoes, and is very good blended with softened butter to be used on many types of vegetables. 
Doreen caught, early 1990’s

You can also use the leafy fronds to stuff whole fish for grilling. Dill weed is an essential ingredient in a popular Swedish preparation made with fresh salmon called gravlax. I don’t see why you couldn’t try it with a large fresh fish such as the one shown in the above photo (the fish, people), which is a mackinaw or lake trout from Lake Pend Oreille; we usually brine and BBQ them. 

Some of the larger coho salmon in other inland northwest lakes would also make a good candidate. In any case, just be sure the fish is really fresh, otherwise don’t even bother with it. Some recipes for gravlax include thinly sliced red onion along with the herbs, but I don’t personally care for that flavor. This recipe is from my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary

Coho salmon

You still have time to make this for New Year’s Day Brunch!

Gravlax with Dill and Spearmint
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar (preferably organic)
2 ultra-fresh salmon fillets with skin,
similarly sized at about 2 pounds each
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1/2 cup minced fresh dill leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh spearmint leaves
Combine  the salt and sugar in a bowl. Carefully remove any bones from the fish. On the flesh side, score each fillet 3 or 4 times diagonally. Sprinkle the sugar-salt blend on all sides of the fish, then place one fillet skin-side down on a large piece of plastic wrap. Sprinkle half the peppercorns on the fish, then layer on the fresh herbs. Sprinkle with the rest of the peppercorns, then match the other fillet flesh-side down on the herbs, atop the other piece. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap.
Next, place the wrapped salmon in a large glass baking dish and cover with another heavy flat dish or pan, and weigh this down with a (towel-wrapped) brick or something heavy to evenly press on the fillets.  Refrigerate, turning the fish package every 12 hours.
After 48 hours, open package and drain any liquid that has accumulated. Gently scrape off the herb blend and peppercorns and discard. Carefully filet the skin away from the flesh.
To serve, place on a cutting board and thinly slice the salmon at an angle with a long, sharp knife. Small rounds of rye or wheat bread and sliced cucumber make this dish complete, with perhaps a tiny dab of sour cream, and the traditional shot of icy cold aquavit.

 Dill is easy to grow if you have the garden space, and you can successively plant every two weeks starting in May until the end of June for fresh dill all summer. Be sure to save some seed for planting next year, although once you get it going, it will sow it’s own seeds from year to year and you’ll get volunteers in unexpected places!
Doreen with her catch, 1968

Happy New Year, and get out there and go fishing! With your Mom!