Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a short-lived perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region and Southern Russia. Its seeds, dill seeds are used as a spice, and its fresh leaves, dill, and its dried leaves, dill weed, are used as herbs. The dill grows ordinarily from 2 to 2 1/2 feet high and is very like fennel, though smaller, having the same feathery leaves, which stand on sheathing foot-stalks, with linear and pointed leaflets. Unlike fennel, however, it has seldom more than one stalk and its long, spindle-shaped root is only annual. It is of very upright growth, its stems smooth, shiny and hollow, and in midsummer bearing flat terminal umbels with numerous yellow flowers, whose small petals are rolled inwards. The flat fruits, the so-called seeds, are produced in great quantities.
How to grow
Dill, like most herbs, loves to bask in the sun, but will tolerate afternoon shade. Dill grows up to 3 feet tall, so plant it in the back of your flower, vegetable or herb garden. Sow seeds close together in fertile soil. This will allow the plants, which blow over easily to support each other. Cover the seeds lightly, and allow 2 to 3 weeks for them to germinate. For a continuous crop, sow repeatedly from mid spring to early summer. Space plants 12 inches apart in rows about 24 inches apart. It is easy to grow from seeds.
The best way to use dill is fresh from the garden, so during the growing season, cut your dill to use fresh as you need it. If not kept cut, your dill will go to seed, so cut often until you are ready to switch to seed production.
As a medicinal plant, dill has been used as an antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, stimulant, and stomachic. It has also been used as a remedy for colic and insomnia and as a stimulant for lactation. Dill seeds are used whole or ground as a condiment for flavoring meats, sauces, stews, breads, vinegars, pastries, and vegetable. Dried and fresh leaves are used in sauces, salads, soups, stews, and vinegars. Dill is an important flavoring agent in the pickling of cucumbers. Some dill oil is used in cosmetics and perfumes. Dried dill foliage is commonly called dill weed