Member of the family Apiaceae
Dill is an easy to grow, perennial herb. It can grow to a height of 100 cm, has slender stems and alternate, finely divided, delicate leaves.
The flowers are white to yellow in small umbels. The seeds are 4-5 mm long and about 1 mm thick and very flat. The pungent, bitter seeds are freely produced, and unless gathered early are sure to stock the garden with volunteer seedlings for the following year.
Dill has been, as most herbs, cultivated and used since ancient times. Dill was found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep II, and there exists evidence for cultivation as far back as the late Neolithic times. You can also read about dill in the descriptions of the gardens of the ancient kings of Babylon and Ur.
Dill was considered important both as a medical and culinary herb.
There are several theories of how dill got its name. One is that the name originates in the Saxon verb “dillan”, which means to soothe or lull. From old times an extraction of crushed dill seeds has been known to be a helpful remedy for falling asleep.
The word translated, “anise” in Matthew xxiii, 23, is said to have been “dill” in the original Greek. It was well-known in Pliny’s time, and is often discussed by writers in the middle ages.
Dill is mineral rich, and is an important nutritional supplement. It has a stimulating effect on appetite, but paradoxically chewing dill seeds helps to still hunger.
Earlier, people brought dill seeds to chew in church when the sermon got to long and the hunger to strong.
Dill grows wild in the Mediterranean region.
The seeds were brought farther north by the Romans expanding their empire. Traces of dill have been found in Roman ruins in Great Britain.
The Roman author Apicius writes about the usefulness of dill in his book “De re coguinara” (On the Art of Cooking). He gives recipes for salads, for flavoring of preserves, for cakes and pastry, all enriched with dill.
Dill is best when used fresh, but the seeds can easily be dried and used all year round. It is also possible to grow dill indoors in the kitchen sill. The herb will not grow very high, but it grows easy.
Dill is especially popular in the cuisine of Sweden. All parts of the herb are used. It is used in all sorts of foods, from bread and cakes to seafood and meat. Most famous is although “gravad laks” – cured salmon.
Cucumber pickled with dill is also a well-known and beloved dish/condiment.
Dill vinegar is a popular household condiment. It is made by soaking the whole young plant including seeds and flowers in good vinegar for about a month before using.