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Dill – more versatile than its reputation

Dill adds a special flavour to cucumber salad and pickled cucumbers and to marinated salmon and trout.

 

Whole sprigs of dill can be used to flavour vinegar. The tenderest leaves and tips, finely chopped, go into salads, soups, sauces and pickles. Dill can also be sprinkled on boiled potatoes and egg dishes. The pungent taste of dill goes best with simple herbs such as parsley, onions and garlic. Dill loses its aroma if it’s heated, so it should be sprinkled over the finished dish rather than cooked along with it.

Most flavoursome just before the plant blooms

Dill (Anethum graveolens) originally came from Asia; today it’s widely grown across northern Europe. It’s an annual and, like fennel, belongs to the umbellifer family. Dill can grow up to a metre tall with delicate, feathery leaves. Like many other herbs, the time to cut dill for maximum flavour is just before it flowers. That’s when the volatile oils collect in the tips of the leaves and the whole plant is redolent with a smell that has hints of aniseed, caraway, parsley and lemon. It’s mostly the foliage that is used; the seeds are used less often, probably because they have a rather harsh flavour. Dill has long had a reputation as a medicinal plant, prescribed to combat lack of appetite and digestive problems. It was widely used in ancient times and in the middle ages it was an essential herb in every monastery garden.

Buying, storing and growing your own

In spring and summer, you can buy bunches of fresh dill or dill in pots for your windowsill. When there’s no fresh dill to be had, you’ll usually be able to get hold of frozen or dried dill. If you’re buying fresh dill look for a deep green colour and an aromatic smell. If you buy a bunch, use it as quickly as dill wilts within a very short time, even if you put it in water. The better way to store it is wrapped in clingfilm, or in a ziplock bag, in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Or chop it finely and freeze it in a little water in icecube trays. Grow your own dill in a sunny and protected spot where you can keep the ground well-watered. As much as dill likes moisture, it doesn’t like wet feet. Start cutting for kitchen use once the plant has reached about 20 cm.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de